Movie Reviews: Despicable Me 3; Baby Driver; Halal Daddy

Despicable Me 3 ****
Baby Driver ****
Halal Daddy ****

 

Reformed supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) returns in Despicable Me 3 (G), newly married to Lucy (Kristen Wiig) but in something of a funk after being fired from the Anti-Villain League for allowing Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) to steal the world’s largest diamond. When Gru learns that he has a ridiculously wealthy twin brother, Dru (also Steve Carell), he flies his family to Dru’s mansion in Freedonia, where Dru proposes that he and Gru team up to become an unbeatable supervillain team.

Directed by Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin (who also voices the Minions), Despicable Me 3 delivers the kind of fast-paced, humorous spoof of movie villainy we’ve come to expect.

The Gru-Dru double-act provides the main plot, as Gru attempts to teach the enthusiastic but hapless Dru the niceties of villainy, although sub-plots abound, including cute little Agnes (Nev Scharrel) going in search of a real-life unicorn, and the Minions walking off the job when Gru refuses to countenance a return to the bad old days.

That said, it’s Bratt — whom Gru and Dru target as they scheme to steal back the diamond that proved Gru’s downfall — who steals the show. A former child TV star, Bratt is an ’80s kid to the tips of his shoulder-pads (his army of minions are called “the Bratt Pack”), employing Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ as his heist music as he moonwalks through his nefarious scheme to destroy Hollywood.

The animation is fabulously detailed, there’s plenty of Minion-related slapstick for the very young, and the story is laced with ’80s references for the older viewers to enjoy, including a soundtrack chock-a-block with cheesy hits from A-ha, Phil Collins, Madonna and Olivia Newton-John. What’s not to like?

Baby Driver (15A) opens with Baby (Ansel Elgort) operating as an unflappable getaway driver for bank robbers Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Griff (Jon Bernthal), who take orders from the enigmatic Doc (Kevin Spacey). With just one more driving job before he’s free of his debt to Doc, Baby falls for waitress Debora (Lily James), with matters further complicated when loose cannon Bats (Jamie Foxx) signs on with Doc’s crew.

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver doesn’t veer too far from the conventions of the heist-gone-wrong movie, with Baby a fresh-faced, contemporary version of the equally cool (and equally monosyllabic) Steve McQueen in a blend of Bullitt and The Getaway. Suffering from tinnitus, Baby drives with his earbuds in, a conceit that allows Wright to flood the soundtrack with a plethora of blues, soul and classic R&B.

It’s all very slick and stylised (think early Tarantino), although the posturing does begin to grate a little (“I don’t squeal to the cops, I squeal on the road”) when little of substance emerges to give the story emotional heft.

The relationship between Baby and Debora is problematic, not least because Debora appears to have zero instinct for self-preservation — most women, you’d imagine, would kick a boyfriend to the curb once bullets started flying around their place of work, regardless of how vulnerable and cherubic he looked behind the wheel.

That said, if fly dialogue, cool tunes, improbable shootouts and superbly edited chases are your thing, Baby Driver might well be your movie of the year.

Halal Daddy (15A) stars Nikesh Patel as Raghdan Aziz, a Bradford Muslim who has decided that Sligo is “as good a place not to belong as any”. When his father, Amir (Art Malik), arrives in Sligo to celebrate Raghdan’s 21st, he is horrified to discovering Raghdan boozing, surfing and involved in a relationship with local girl Maeve (Sarah Bolger). Determined to set Raghdan back on the path to righteousness, Amir opens a halal factory and installs his son as manager — a move that puts the meat plant’s former manager, Sarah’s father Martin (Colm Meaney), in a right snit.

 

Co-written by Mark O’Halloran and Conor McDermottroe, with Sligo native McDermottroe directing, Halal Daddy mines cultural confusion for its offbeat sense of humour and delivers plenty of laughs.

Nikesh Patel is in terrific form as the gauche rebel who rejects conformity, and there’s a strong chemistry between he and Sarah Bolger which gives the story its considerable heart.

Colm Meaney gives good value too as he tip-toes around his new boss Amir, desperate not to give offence even as he tramples political correctness into the dirt, while Art Malik deserves some kind of an award for managing to keep a straight face despite constant, albeit unintended, provocation.

It’s an Irish take on East is East, of course, but O’Halloran and McDermottroe keep the material fresh and sparky right up to the last 20 minutes or so, when the pace abruptly slows and the subversive wit disappears to be replaced with a rather bland paean to multiculturalism.



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