Archive for Julie Andrews

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Five years after the first film, Crown Princess of Genovia Amelia “Mia” Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) has just graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and is returning to Genovia with her bodyguard Joe (Héctor Elizondo). There, she will await her reign once her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), steps down as Queen. During Mia’s 21st birthday party, she dances with all the eligible bachelors in hope of finding a husband. She becomes attracted to a handsome gentleman named Nicholas (Chris Pine). During the course of the night, Mia’s tiara falls off and is caught by a Member of Parliament, Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies) who secretly plans to steal Mia’s crown. While the Parliament is in-session the next morning, Mia stumbles upon a hidden room that allows her to secretly listen in. Viscount Mabrey reveals his nephew, Lord Devereaux, is another heir to the Genovian throne. Despite Queen Clarisse’s objection, the only way Mia can assume her duties as Queen is if she marries within the month. Clarisse invites Lord Devereaux to stay at the palace, while Mia is shocked to discover Lord Devereaux is Nicholas. Mia’s best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) surprises her by visiting. Together, they pick through potential husbands. Mia eventually chooses Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue), Duke of Kenilworth and days later they are engaged. Mabrey plans to have Nicholas woo Mia and dissolve the engagement.

For a ceremony, Mia is to ride sidesaddle but does not know how. Queen Clarisse provides an ancestral wooden leg decoy to make it look like she’s riding sidesaddle. Mabrey spooks Mia’s horse with a rubber snake and Joe rushes to Mia’s aide, but accidentally tears off the wooden leg. Humiliated, Mia flees to the stables, where Nicholas fails to comfort her. At a garden party, Mia and Nicholas quarrel about Mia’s relationship with Andrew; Nicholas tricks Mia into admitting she doesn’t love him. Angered, she argues but instead gets bombarded by a kiss. At first, she kisses him back but then backs away. Nicholas pursues her even more, which causes both of them to fall into a fountain. Queen Clarisse finally tells Mia that her behavior with Nicholas needs to stop.

During the Genovian Independence Day parade, Mia sees some boys picking on a little girl (Abigail Breslin), and abruptly halts the parade to comfort the girl. Learning the children are orphans, Mia has a vendor give them all tiaras and lets them walk with her in the parade. Everyone is impressed by her act of generosity, while Mabrey sees it as a political maneuver. Mia later decides to convert one of the royal palaces into a temporary children’s center. That night, Mia has her bachelorette/sleepover party, where Queen Clarisse surfs on a mattress and sings a duet with Princess Asana (Raven-Symoné), one of Mia’s good friends. In the meantime, Mabrey realizes Nicholas has fallen for Mia, but Nicholas says that Mia will never love him. Nicholas comes upon Mia as she is practicing her archery as part of her coronation rites. He helps her succeed in getting the arrow to hit the bullseye, something she had been struggling with. Nicholas then informs Mia that he is leaving, but asks to see her just one more time before he goes. She declines, saying she is under close guard.

That night, Nicholas appears outside Mia’s window and asks her to come out. Lilly encourages her to go, and Mia sneaks out. They ride out to a lake where they share secrets, dance and eventually fall asleep. They awaken to find a man in a boat videotaping them. Mia thinks Nicholas set her up, while he insists he had no idea. By the time Mia gets back to the palace, the scandalous footage is already being broadcast. Andrew is disappointed and kisses Mia to see if there is a romantic spark between them. They realize they do not love each other, but do not call off the wedding for the good of Genovia. The wedding is to take place the following day, and Mia’s mother Helen (Caroline Goodall) comes with her new husband Patrick (Sean O’Bryan) and their newborn son Trevor. Nicholas decides against attending, but his surly housekeeper Gretchen informs him that Mabrey engineered their televised scandal.

Right before the wedding, Joe informs Mia that Nicholas is innocent. Queen Clarisse encourages Mia to follow her heart, something she has never done and has now cost her Joe, the only man she truly loved. Mia reenters the church, and after pointing out how her grandmother has ruled Genovia while unmarried for a number of years, she tells the members of parliament in the audience to consider the significant women in their lives (such as their wives, sisters, daughters and nieces) and questions if they would have them do what they’re trying to force her to do (marrying people they don’t love). Mabrey cites the law again and once again suggests that his nephew be named King, but just then, Nicholas not only refuses the crown, but also disowns Mabrey as his uncle. Mia proposes the law on royal marriages be abolished, and the Parliament unanimously gives its assent. Encouraged by Mia to have her own happy ending, Clarisse proposes to Joe and they are promptly married.

About a week later, Mia is preparing for her coronation when Nicholas shows up. He professes his love for Mia on bended knees, and they share a romantic kiss. The next day, Mia is crowned “Her Majesty Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia”, with all in attendance in the royal palace.

An epilogue shows that Genovian Parliament now allows female members, one of whom is Charlotte. And Queen Mia officially opens the children’s home

REVIEW:

Sometimes when the end credits roll on a film you wonder if you will ever see the characters again and what will they be up to the next time we see them, should we be privileged enough to see them again. This was the case with The Princess Diaries. The film ended in a way that left the audience wondering what happens next. Enter The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, a film that I swear I was not meant to see (up until tonight, I have never been able to watch it straight through for various reasons). With all that aside, let’s see if this film is comparable to its predecessor.

What is this about?

Directed by Garry Marshall, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement picks up where its predecessor left off — that is, with American teenager Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) reeling over the news that she is a princess within the royal family of Genovia, a little-known European nation with a population of barely 50,000. As promised, Mia, along with her best friend, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), travels to Genovia after their high-school graduation. The unlikely princess has hardly settled into the castle, let alone begun representing the country, when she learns that a larger title is approaching more rapidly than expected; it seems as though Mia will have to take over as queen. Suddenly, in addition to further schooling on the etiquette of royalty, Mia finds herself with a daunting prospect — according to Genovian law, all princesses must be married before they can be crowned.

What did I like?

One more once. Not too long before the first film was made, Julie Andrews underwent surgery on her throat/vocal chords. The operation was a success, but she was no longer allowed to sing. I’m not sure what happened, but we get a song from her during the slumber party, albeit nowhere near as strong a vocal performance as we expect from her. Still, it is great to hear her sing a few notes.

In her skin. In this second time out, Anne Hathaway, as Princess Mia, seems much more confident both as an actress and the character as a royal. Can you imagine what this would have been like if she was still bumbling around like she was when we first met her? Granted, she does still have those moments that remind us that while she is the would be queen, the clumsy prep school girl is still in there somewhere.

Grandmother. Julie Andrews’ character is on her way out of the royal spotlight and off the throne as Mia takes her rightful place as ruler of Genovia. It is because of this that I think she is able to not be such a “stick in the mud” and be more of a grandmother towards her granddaughter. We get a few scenes where she is chewing her out, of course, but for the most part, she is the dream grandmother we all wish we had. She had poise, class, elegance, compassion…not to mention she’s Julie Freakin’ Andrews!!!

What didn’t I like?

Nevermore. Aside from her best friend, Lily, who was flown in from California (and felt a bit forced into the film), Mia seems to be close to Princess Asana. There are two glaring issues I want to bring up with this. First, if they are so close, why is Asana only in a couple of scenes? Second, who is she? How did they meet? Why are they so close? Mia grew up with Lily and they were both outsider freaks in high school, so we know that’s why they were so close, but with Asana, we get none of that. She’s just a random character that gets to sing with Julie Andrews.

Formula 1. Is it me or with every film, book, or tv show that involves a royal change of power of sorts, we get someone who wants to prove they are next in line. This is such a cliché’ nowadays. One could tell what was going to happen before it actually does, just by the film’s title and the type of film this is. Come on filmmakers, be creative!

Lionel. Joe, who is retiring when the Queen leaves the throne, is sacked with an intern in his last days. What I found odd about this guy was how he reminded me of Michael from the first film, but with darker skin and slightly shorter hair. This got me thinking…with the way Mia fawned over Michael in the first film, wouldn’t it have been a cool idea for him to show up as Lionel in disguise and be her dream ending? Of course, then Chris Pine’s whole character in this film would be worthless, but he goes on too much bigger and better things after this, so he’ll be fine.

Final verdict on The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement? Let’s see…it repeats some of the same notes from the first film. The soundtrack isn’t as catchy this go-round. Chemistry among the characters is so-so, but I actually believed it in the archery scene with Hathaway and Pine. The mattress surfing scene was perhaps the most fun part of the film. Do I recommend this? Yes, a good (non animated) family film is hard to find. While not great, it is somewhat entertaining and that’s worth something. However, I would suggest going for the first film, if you can.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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The Princess Diaries

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Teenager Mia Thermopolis lives with her artist mother, Helen, and her black and white cat, Fat Louie, in a remodeled San Francisco firehouse. A somewhat awkward and unpopular girl, she is terrified of public speaking and often wishes to be “invisible”. She has a crush on the popular Josh Bryant, but is frequently teased by both him and his cheerleader girlfriend, Lana Thomas. Mia’s only friendships are in the form of the equally unpopular Lilly Moscovitz and Lilly’s brother Michael, who secretly has a crush on Mia.

Just before her 16th birthday, Mia learns her paternal grandmother, Clarisse, is visiting from (the fictional) Genovia, a small European kingdom. When Mia goes to meet her at a large house (later revealed to be the Genovian consulate), Clarisse reveals she is actually Queen Clarisse Renaldi, and that her son, Mia’s late father, was Crown Prince of Genovia. Mia is stunned to learn she is a princess and heir to the Genovian throne. In shock, Mia runs home and angrily confronts her mother, who explains she had planned to tell Mia on her 18th birthday, but that her father’s death has forced the matter. Queen Clarisse visits and explains that if Mia refuses the throne, Genovia will be without a ruler (a subplot involves a scheming baron and his unsightly baroness quietly rooting for Mia’s downfall). Helen persuades a hesitant Mia to attend “princess lessons” with the Queen, telling her she does not have to make her decision until the upcoming Genovian Independence Day ball.

Mia is given a glamorous makeover, the use of a limousine and a bodyguard (the Queen’s head of security, Joe). This and Mia’s frequent absences for the lessons make Lilly suspicious and jealous, so she accuses Mia of trying to be like the popular girls. Mia breaks down and tells Lilly everything, swearing her to secrecy. However, the San Francisco Chronicle learns that Mia is the Genovian Crown Princess after hairdresser Paolo breaks his confidentiality agreement (so his work would be known), causing a press frenzy, and a sudden surge in popularity at school for Mia. In a craven urge for fame, many of her classmates (mostly Lana) bluff that they are friends of the princess to reporters.

At a state dinner, Mia embarrasses herself with her clumsiness, delighting her rivals for the crown. However, all is not lost as the situation amuses a stuffy diplomat, and the Queen tells Mia the next day she found it fun. Deciding it is time the two bonded as grandmother and granddaughter, the Queen allows Mia to take her out in Mia’s late 60s Ford Mustang convertible for the day to the Musée Mécanique, an amusement arcade. The day almost ends terribly when Mia’s car stalls a hill and rams backward into a cable car, but Queen Clarisse saves the day by “appointing” the attending police officer and the tram driver to the Genovian “Order of the Rose” (something she clearly made up on the spot), flattering them into dropping any charges. Mia sees this and is impressed with her grandmother.

Later, Mia is delighted when Josh Bryant invites her to a beach party, but her acceptance hurts Lilly and Michael, with whom she had plans (the former wanting Mia to appear on her self-made cable show, and the latter wanting her to watch his band perform). Things go wrong when the press arrive, tipped off by Lana. Josh uses Mia to get his 15 minutes of fame by publicly kissing her, while Lana tricks her into changing in a tent, pulling it away as the paparazzi arrive, giving them a scandalous shot of her in a towel. She breaks down into tears in her mother’s arms when she gets home. The photos appear on tabloid covers the following day, leaving Queen Clarisse furious at Mia. A humiliated Mia tells her that she is renouncing the throne, feeling she is nowhere near ready to be a true princess. Joe later reminds the Queen that although Mia is a princess, she is still a teenager and her granddaughter.

Back at school, Mia attempts to rescue her friendships with Lilly and Michael by inviting them to the Genovian Independence Day Ball, gets back at Josh for using her by hitting a baseball into his gut during gym class, and finally stands up to Lana when she is cruel to Lilly’s friend Jeremiah, publicly humiliating her by smearing ice cream on her cheerleader outfit and telling her that while she (Mia) might grow out of her proclaimed odd ways, she (Lana) will never stop being a jerk; the teachers do not interfere, knowing Lana deserved it. While Lilly is excited at the prospect of attending a royal ball, Michael, brokenhearted over Mia’s initial feelings for Josh, turns her down. Clarisse apologizes to Mia for being furious at her over the beach incident, and states that she must publicly announce her decision to become princess of Genovia. Mia, terrified at this large responsibility placed upon her, plans to run away. However, when she finds a letter from her late father, his touching words make her change her mind, and she makes her way to the ball. Mia’s car breaks down in the rain, but she is rescued by Joe, who had suspected she was going to run.

When they arrive, a drenched and untidy Mia voices her acceptance of her role as Princess of Genovia. Mia gets dressed up and accompanies Clarisse to the ballroom, where she is formally introduced and invited to dance. Michael, accepting an apologetic gift from Mia (a pizza with M & M candies cleverly topped to say “sorry”), arrives at the ball, and after a quick dance, they adjourn to the courtyard. Mia confesses her feelings to him, stating that even when she was constantly teased and embarrassed at school, he liked her for who she truly was. Mia shares her first kiss with Michael, while Clarisse and Joe are seen holding hands. In the final scene Mia is shown on a private plane with Fat Louie, writing in her diary, explaining she is moving with her mother to Genovia, just as the beautiful royal palace and landscape come into view below.

REVIEW:

I’ve been writing reviews here for nearly 10 yrs and one of the films that I get the most flak for not reviewing is The Princess Diaries. There is no reason for me not reviewing this film before this morning. It just happens to have slipped through the cracks up to this point, but since I was able to watch the whole this for the first time in forever, allow me to share my thoughts on this film.

What is this about?

The life of gawky Mia Thermopolis changes drastically after learning she’s the heir to a European principality’s throne. But as her royal grandmother schools Mia on conducting herself with gracious disdain, she ends up at odds with her best friend.

What did I like?

Introducing Anne Hathaway. Today, she is viewed as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but when this was released in 2001, no one knew who Anne Hathaway was. I must say, for an introductory film, she knocked it out of the park, giving a performance that is not only scene stealing, but hints at the great actress she will turn into in the coming years. On top of that, she has some nice chemistry with Dame Julie Andrews, who is playing her estranged grandmother. More on that shortly.

Real teens. We’ve seen teens portrayed ad nauseam in TV and movies, but I think this is one of the few films where they actually felt like teenagers act (or acted at the time). There is no random kid who seems to have unlimited amounts of money, but still goes to high school. Mia and her friend are social outcasts for the most part and, while they aren’t popular, they aren’t getting pranked, ridiculed, or something more life altering (see Central Intelligence). All in all, with the exception of Mandy Moore’s head cheerleader character, who is in the same vein as her character from Saved! btw, none of the teens we meet are cartoonish caricatures.

Can she be my grandmother? No matter what your age, chances are Julie Andrews had a part in raising you, be it as Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp, or just her normal, warm-hearted self. Those were characters she made popular in the 60s, though. Fast forward some 40 years and here she is as a grandmother. I can’t help but wish she was mine, though. She is firm but fair, regal, elegant and did I mention she’s Julie freakin’ Andrews?!?

What didn’t I like?

Joe. After Mia first meets the Queen and is told she is a princess, she runs out. The next couple of scenes seem oddly cut, as Queen Clarice asks Joe to keep an eye on her and he introduces himself as “…the head of her security, not a chauffeur and a babysitter[sic].” For a character that plays such an important role throughout the film, his introduction felt…I dunno…underwhelming because of how that was cut. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that is the only time in the entire film the editing was so choppy.

Papa, can you hear me? I have never read the book this was based on, so my familiarity with these characters hinges strictly on what I see on film. I’m sure more than a few viewers feel the same way. This brings in to question the legend of Mia’s father. Throughout the film, especially around the time Queen Clarice shows up, everyone starts mentioning the accident, but that is all we know. Obviously, giving graphic details about what happened would have brought the film down, but just a little information would have been nice like, I don’t know, what kind of accident that took his life and inadvertently put all this pressure on young Mia’s shoulders

Makeover. One of the big problems people have with makeovers, in movies especially, is that the person being made over is obviously drop-dead gorgeous in the first place. Take She’s All That for example. Rachel Leigh Cook is a total cutie, and even though they stuck a thick pair of glasses on her and shoved the poor girl in some baggy overalls, it didn’t hide the fact that she was a total hottie. This was even mentioned in the film! With Anne Hathaway, they did something very similar, giving her some “Groucho Marx meets Brooke Shields” eyebrows, unkept curly hair, and an all around geeky look. Anne was still developing into the beautiful creature she is today, but she was still extremely gorgeous back then, and it was obvious, despite attempts to hide it.

Final thoughts on The Princess Diaries? Well, first off, this is one of those squeaky clean family films that Garry Marshall excelled in making. The introduction of young Anne Hathaway as the titular princess was actually a pretty good idea. As we’ve seen her career take off from this film. I wonder where the other actresses who were considered/audition for the part are today. There is very little negative that I have to say about this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! This needs to be on your list of movies to watch before you die! Check it out, if you haven’t already!

5 out of 5 stars

The Sound of Music

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Maria (Julie Andrews) is found in a pasture, exulting in the musical inspiration she finds there (“The Sound of Music”). Maria is a postulant in Nonnberg Abbey, where she is constantly getting into mischief and is the nuns’ despair (“Maria”).

Maria’s life suddenly changes when a widowed Austrian Navy Captain, Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) writes to the abbey asking for a governess for his seven children. Mother Abbess asks Maria to take the position on a probationary basis; previous governesses, though, have not lasted long. She is worried about what awaits her at the von Trapp household, but is determined to succeed (“I Have Confidence”).

Maria, upon arrival at the von Trapp estate, finds that the Captain keeps it in strict shipshape order, blows a whistle, issues orders, and dresses his children in sailor-suit uniforms. While they are initially hostile to her, they warm to her when she comforts them during a thunderstorm (“My Favorite Things”). Liesl (Charmian Carr), the oldest, who is “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, sneaks into Maria’s window after a secret meeting with a messenger boy, Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte). At first she is adamant that she “doesn’t need a governess”, but Maria offers to be her friend, and she acquiesces. Maria teaches them how to sing (“Do-Re-Mi”) and to play, sewing playclothes for them from discarded drapes in her room.

The Captain entertains a visit from a lady friend, Baroness Elsa Schroeder (Eleanor Parker), a wealthy socialite from Vienna, along with mutual friend Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn), who is intent on finding an obscure musical act to launch at the upcoming Salzburg Music Festival. The Captain becomes aware that Maria has been taking the children on picnics and bicycle rides, climbed trees with them, and taken them in a boat on the lake adjoining his estate. When the boat capsizes, Maria and all of the children (wearing their clothes made from the former curtains) fall into the water. The Captain turns his wrath on her and Maria begs him to pay attention to the children and love them, but he orders her to return to the abbey.

When he discovers the children performing a reprise of “The Sound of Music” for the Baroness, he changes his mind. Maria has brought music back into his home, and he begs her to stay. Things get better at the household. She and the children perform a puppet show (“The Lonely Goatherd”) that Max gave to them. He announces that he has entered the children in the Salzburg Festival; the Captain, however, forbids their participation. Maria and the children insist that he sing a song, knowing that he used to play and sing with a guitar, and he agrees (“Edelweiss”).

At a soiree thrown in Baroness Schroeder’s honor, eleven-year-old Kurt (Duane Chase) observes guests dancing the Laendler, and asks Maria to teach him the steps. The Captain cuts in and partners her in a graceful performance, culminating in a close clinch. At that moment, she breaks off and blushes. The children perform “So Long, Farewell” to say goodnight to the guests, receiving enthusiastic applause. The Baroness, jealous of Maria, convinces her to return to Nonnberg.

Maria leaves the estate and returns to the abbey, where she keeps herself in seclusion until Mother Abbess gently confronts her, urging her to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in search of God’s will for her. At this command, she returns to the von Trapp family, finding that the Captain is now engaged to the Baroness. However, he breaks off the engagement, realizing that he is in love with Maria. He meets Maria in his gazebo and they declare their love for each other. The Captain and Maria share a kiss for romance (“Something Good”). The two wed in an elaborate ceremony at the Salzburg Cathedral, with many of Austria’s elite, as well as the nuns from Nonnberg Abbey, in attendance.

While the new couple is away on their honeymoon in Paris, Max grooms the children to perform in the Salzburg Music Festival, against the Captain’s wishes. At the same time, Austria is annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss (actual date was March 12, 1938). When the Captain returns, he is informed that he must report as soon as possible to the Nazi Naval Headquarters in Bremerhaven, to accept a commission in the German Navy. He is opposed to Nazism, and stalls by insisting he must perform with his family that night in the Salzburg Festival, now politicized and showcased as a Nazi event under the patronage of Hans Zeller (Ben Wright), recently appointed as the Nazi Gauleiter. Zeller agrees, but orders the Captain to depart immediately after the performance. The choreography of the final song, “So Long, Farewell”, allows the family to leave slowly, a few at a time, and as the winners are announced, they flee. At first they hide in the abbey, but are discovered by Rolfe (who had joined the Nazi party), who threatens to shoot the Captain despite being visibly scared of having to do so. The Captain unsuccessfully attempts to persuade Rolfe to join them; he calls for his lieutenant instead, and the von Trapps flee again. The Nazis are unable to pursue them, as the nuns have removed the spark plug wires and ignition coils from their cars. The final shot shows the von Trapps climbing over the Alps into Switzerland, as “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, reprised by a choir, swells to a conclusion.

REVIEW:

It has been brought to my attention recently that there are some truly immortal classic films that I have yet to review, one of which is The Sound of Music. As far as holiday traditions go, this must be one of them as it seems to be on every Easter (when they’re not showing The Ten Commandments) and Christmas. Some would say that a true classic like this deserves to be on even more!

What is this about?

In Rodgers and Hammerstein’s greatest collaboration, a feisty postulant named Maria (Julie Andrews) is sent to care for the unruly, motherless Von Trapp children. She soon tames them — and finds herself falling for their stern father (Christopher Plummer).

What did I like?

Scenery. The film opens with the very definition of sweeping cinematography as we zoom in on Maria singing in the hills and mountains overlooking Salzburg. Captain von Trapp’s estate is apparently on some kind of lake/river and is just gorgeous beyond words. The abbey isn’t too shabby, either, as far as abbeys go. Whoever it was that scouted location for this flick really knew what they were doing.

Light. Musicals, in my opinion, should not be heavy dramas, but rather lighthearted musical romps. The subject matter her is kind of heavy, if you think about it. Teen love, older man who is love with another woman while his new employee who is quite a few years younger than him is falling in love with him, Nazis…this is the kind of stuff that makes for good drama. Luckily for us, it never gets to that point and they keep things light and fun, with an occasional dip here and there into the melancholy.

Cast. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer…enough said.

Music. The greatness of Rodgers & Hammerstein cannot be questioned, and this may be some of their most popular, if not their best work. Nearly every song is memorable and the songs feel natural as opposed to random bursts of song (a ploy that works only in certain works). I dare you to watch this and not come away singing “Do-Re-Mi”, “My Favorite Things”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, or one of the other songs that make this truly great.

What didn’t I like?

Children. Something that I never noticed before tonight was how that the children are basically extras who may get a line or two, except for Liesel, who has her own song and dance routine with the delivery boy. You can also make a case for Greta, since she is the cute one who ends “Edelweiss” and is the first to run into Maria’s room during the thunderstorm, but that’s a bit of a stretch. I felt as if more could be done with the children, especially when they go to the abbey looking for Maria. That would have been the perfect time to allow them to grow.

Wedding. The ceremony was beautiful, but where did all those people come from? That was like a royal wedding! Captain von Trapp was a big to do military officer and all, but as far as I can tell, Maria was just another young girl who has run away to the abbey. I suspect that her parents were in attendance and maybe a few friends and other family, but hardly enough to fill a church the size of a small town. This is a minor complaint, more of a nitpick, really, but it has always bothered me.

The Sound of Music was quite a few awards when it was released, is currently ranked on a few of AFI’s top lists, and has forged quite the legacy for itself. If you are one of the handful of people who hasn’t seen this, what is wrong with you? This is a must-see film for the whole family. To date, I have only met one person who doesn’t like it. As for me, I love it!

5 out of 5 stars

10

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on June 6, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During a surprise 42nd birthday party for George Webber, a well-known composer of popular music, he finds himself coping badly with incipient middle age. When he catches a glimpse of a mysterious woman en route to her wedding, he is instantly obsessed by her beauty, and – despite the presence of his lover Samantha Taylor – follows the woman to the church where he crashes into a police cruiser and is stung by a bee. George visits the priest, and learns that the woman is Jenny Miles, daughter of a prominent Beverly Hills dentist. Later that night, Sam and George have an argument about George’s failure to give her the attention she needs, his use of the term “broad”, and the fact that he and his neighbor (a wealthy porn producer) watch each other perform carnal acts using telescopes. The final straw for Sam occurs when George makes a remark subtly impugning her femininity at which point Sam leaves in a huff.

The following day, George and Sam suffer a series of mishaps that prevent them from reconciling, including George spying on his neighbor until hitting himself with his telescope and falling down an embankment, causing him to miss Sam’s phone call. In addition, George schedules a dental appointment with Jenny’s father, and while in the dentist’s chair, subtly leads the dentist into disclosing that his daughter and her husband went to Mexico for their honeymoon. The examination also reveals a mouthful of cavities, requiring the dentist to spend the entire afternoon inserting fillings in George’s teeth. The after effects of the novocaine, which are aggravated by his heavy drinking immediately after, leave him completely incoherent and when Sam finally reaches him on the phone she mistakes him for a madman and calls the police. The police storm his house, but recognizing him they leave amicably. He visits his neighbor’s house to take part in an orgy just as Sam arrives at his house, and she spots him through his telescope, widening the rift between them.

Later, George impulsively follows the newlyweds to their exclusive hotel in Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico. In the bar, George encounters an old acquaintance, Mary Lewis, who suffers from a lack of self-confidence because she blames herself for a series of failed relationships. When they attempt a fling that night, she interprets George’s inadequacy in bed as confirmation of her insecurities despite her better-than-average looks and easygoing disposition.

One hot day at the beach, George sees Jenny – suntanned and dressed in a one-piece swimsuit and her hair braided in cornrows – which furthers George’s obsession. He notices that David, Jenny’s husband, has fallen asleep on his surfboard. Pretending to inquire about renting a surfboard, George learns that beyond a certain point are powerful currents that can sweep a swimmer or surfer dangerously far from land. George rents a catamaran, clumsily but successfully rescues David, and becomes a hero. Both Sam and his songwriting partner see him on TV Network News and Sam tries to call him, but George (unaware that it is Sam) refuses the call. David, badly sunburned, stays in the hospital, allowing Jenny and George to spend time alone together, culminating in Jenny seducing him to the sounds of Ravel’s Boléro.

Although George is initially elated to find all of his fantasies being fulfilled, he is horrified when Jenny takes a call from her husband while in bed with him and casually informs him of George’s presence. He is even more confused when David responds with a complete lack of concern (he had called to thank George for saving his life). When Jenny explains their open relationship and mutual honesty, George is appalled; with the thrill of enjoying forbidden pleasures extinguished, he loses interest in Jenny and he heads back to Beverly Hills.

At the end of the film, he reconciles with Sam by demonstrating a new maturity and, taking an idea from Jenny, he starts Ravel’s Boléro on the phonograph and they make love with the music playing in the background. This is in full view of the neighbor’s telescope shortly after the neighbor has walked away in disgust, complaining that he has had enough of providing erotic entertainment to George and getting nothing in return.

REVIEW:

In all the classic films I’ve seen, the 70s seem to be an era that I tend to overlook. I don’t really know why, but that is just the way it is. In an effort to rectify this, I decided to give a film I’ve been putting off again and again a shot, 10. I’m sure you’ve heard of this film, or at least how it made a star of the perfect female specimen, Bo Derek (there is a reason this is called 10, after all).

What did I like?

Perfection. The title doesn’t lie. Bo Derek is a 10, maybe even an 11, as Dudley Moore’s character categorized her.. Kudos to the casting directors for going with an unknown actress, rather than trying to force a “name” actress whose looks were overrated.

Where is the cheese? Every romantic comedy I’ve seen has been pure cheese, but for some reason, this film breaks with tradition and actually presents a decent story without getting cheesy, or overly dramatic.

Classical gas. I’m a fan of classical music, so the whole scene where Jenny and George are discussing such classical composers as Ravel and Prokofiev was a sheer treat for me. I know it probably bored or confused just about everyone else that watched this, but it was one of the highlights of the flick for me.

Gratuitous natural debauchery. Like most men of today’s society, I am a fan of full, bouncy breasts. However, there is an abundance of naked women in this film, and every one of them has a cup size that is a small C or below, I would wager. Nothing wrong with that at all. Sometimes the natural way is the best way, though I do question the fact that there couldn’t have been one or two fuller cupped women around.

What didn’t I like?

Why? I will never question Julie Andrews’ acting talents. Hell, they even found a way to let her sing in this film without it becoming a musical. However, I just don’t see why they would choose her when they could have gone with someone else who seems to be more cut out for this kind of role. I’m sorry, I just didn’t care for her here.

Dudley do Wrong. I will never be president o the Dudley Moore fan club, of that there is no question. I did find his performance to be a bit more controlled that in those Arthur films, however. I still found him to be a bit grating. Hell, I’ll just say it…annoying. Can this guy play anything besides a rich guy who has everything and is in some sort of love triangle?

WWRD? When Ravel composed “Bolero” in the 1920s, I doubt he had in mind that it would be used as sex music, yet that is exactly what they have reduced it to. I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to listen to it the same way again. They have literally ruined a truly great musical masterpiece, one that I spent quite some time studying in college.

Hair today, gone tomorrow. I have to wonder, why exactly Bo Derek had her hair in braids. If there is a flaw in her sheer perfection, that’s what it was. Why, oh why did they have to do that to her hair. Even more, why have it that way for the entire flick?!?

What did I ultimately think of 10? Well, it isn’t exactly a summer popcorn flick, but it is enjoyable. No, it isn’t laugh out loud funny, but there are scenes that will make you giggle, or at least smile. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Do I recommend it? Yes, there is no reason you shouldn’t at least give it a shot. Check it out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Mary Poppins

Posted in Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) perched in a cloud high above London in Spring 1910. The action descends to Earth where Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a Cockney jack-of-all-trades is performing as a one-man band at a park entrance, where he suddenly senses that his good friend is about to return. After the show, he breaks the fourth wall and introduces the audience to the well-to-do but troubled Banks family, headed by the cold and aloof George Banks (David Tomlinson) and the loving but highly distracted suffragette Winifred Banks (Glynis Johns).

The Banks’ latest nanny, Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester), quits out of exasperation after the Banks children, Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) run off in pursuit of a wayward kite. Mr. Banks returns home from his job at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, and Mrs. Banks reveals the children are missing. A policeman (Arthur Treacher), arrives with the children, who ask their father to help repair their damaged kite, but he dismisses them and advertises for an authoritarian nanny-replacement. Jane and Michael draft their own advertisement asking for a fun, kind-hearted and caring person, but Mr. Banks tears up the paper and throws it in the fireplace. Unnoticed, the remains of the note float up the dark chimney.

The next day, a queue of elderly and disagreeable looking candidates await at the door. However a strong gust of wind blows the queue away and Mary Poppins floats down, held aloft by her magical umbrella, to apply. Mr. Banks is stunned to see that this calmly defiant new nanny has responded to the children’s ad despite the fact he destroyed it. As he puzzles, Mary Poppins employs herself and begins work, saying that she will stay for a trial period of one week, before deciding if she will take a permanent position. The children face surprises of their own: Mary possesses a bottomless carpetbag, and makes contents of the children’s nursery come to life and tidy themselves (by snapping her fingers).

The trio then meet Bert, who is a close friend of Mary, in the park at work as a screever, where Mary uses one of his chalk pavement drawings as a gateway to an outing in an animated countryside. While in the drawing, the children ride a Merry-Go-Round while Mary and Bert enjoy a stroll though the countryside, during which Bert dances at an outdoor bistro with four penguin waiters. Mary and Bert join the children on the Merry-Go-Round, from which the horses break loose and take their riders on a trip through the countryside. As they pass by a fox hunt, Bert manoeuvres to save an Irish-accented fox from the bloodhounds. Finally the quartet finds themselves in a horse race, which Mary wins. It is here that Mary first employs the nonsense word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The outing is interrupted by a rainstorm, which washes away the chalk drawing and returns the travellers to the park pavement.

That evening, the children ask Mary how long she’ll stay with them. With a sombre expression, she replies, “I shall stay until the wind changes”. The next day, they all visit Bert’s jovial Uncle Albert, who floats whenever he laughs, and join him in a tea party in mid-air (though Mary finds it childish and ridiculous).

Mr. Banks grows increasingly irate with his children’s stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where he is employed. On the way there, as they pass the bank, the children see “The Bird Woman”, and they want to feed the birds, but George will have none of it as he expresses his uninterest in what Mary Poppins says and orders his children to “come along” and not mention her name for the rest of the day. Upon arriving at the bank, Mr. Dawes—Mr. Banks’ extremely elderly employer—aggressively tries to persuade Michael to invest his money in the bank to the point of actually snatching it out of his hand without waiting for his permission. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand, and start a run on the bank that forces the bank to suspend business. The children flee and wander into the slums of the East End of London. Fortunately, they run into Bert, now employed as a chimney sweep. He takes them safely home, explaining that their father does not hate them, but that he has problems of his own, and that unlike the children, has no-one to turn to but himself.

At home, a departing Mrs. Banks employs Bert to clean the family’s chimney and mind the children. Mary Poppins arrives back from her day off and warns of the dangers of this activity, but is too late as the children are both sucked up the chimney to the roof. Bert and Mary follow them and lead a tour of the rooftops of London that concludes with a joyful dance with Bert’s chimney-sweep colleagues. A volley of fireworks from the Banks’ eccentric neighbour, Admiral Boom, who mistakes them for Hottentots, sends the entire gathering back down the Banks’ chimney. Mr. Banks arrives home, forcing Mary to conclude the festivities. Banks then receives a phone call from work ordering him to return immediately for disciplinary action. As Mr. Banks gathers his strength, Bert points out that while Mr. Banks does need to make a living, his offspring’s childhood will come and go in a blink of an eye, and he needs to be there for them while he can. The Banks children approach their father to apologize, and Michael gives Mr. Banks his tuppence in the hope that it will make things all right. Banks gently accepts the offering.

A somber and thoughtful Mr. Banks walks alone through the night-time streets, for the first time noticing several of the buildings around him, including the cathedral and steps on which the woman was sitting earlier. At the bank, he is formally humiliated and sacked for causing the first run on the bank since 1773 (it is stated that the bank supplied the money for the shipment of tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party). However, after being at a loss when ordered to give a statement, Mr. Banks invokes Mary Poppins’ all-purpose word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” to tweak Mr. Dawes. He gives Dawes the tuppence, tells the old man one of Bert’s and Uncle Albert’s jokes and raucously departs. Dawes mulls over the joke, finally “gets it” and floats up into the air, laughing.

The next morning, the wind has changed direction, and so Mary must depart. Meanwhile, the Banks adults cannot find Mr. Banks, and fear that he might have become suicidal. However, Mr. Banks, now loving and joyful, reappears with the now-mended kite and cheerfully summons his children. The greatly relieved Mrs. Banks supplies a tail for the kite, using one of her suffragette ribbons. They all leave the house without a backward glance as Mary Poppins watches from a window. In the park with other kite-flyers, Mr. Banks meets Mr. Dawes Jr., who says that his father literally died laughing. Instead of being upset, the son is delighted his father died happy, and re-employs Mr. Banks to fill the opening as partner. Her work done, Mary Poppins takes to the air with a fond farewell from Bert (who was selling kites), telling her not to stay away too long.

REVIEW:

Someone actually suggested this one to me in the spring, but certain personal events put it on hold indefinitely. Today, I finally get the chance to make good on that promise.

Along with the classic hand drawn animation films of its heyday, one the Disney studios greatest productions had to be Mary Poppins.

This is everything one wold expect from a Disney film. It has bright, brilliant colors, great songs, a heart warming story, and that Disney magic. All of which have allowed it to withstand the test of time.

I was not aware, but should not be surprised, that Mary Poppins was actually a book. I suppose I should go the library and check it out. On that note, another nanny that has gained some popularity in recent years has been said to be Mary’s sister, and that is Nanny McPhee. Now, I don’t know how true or false this is, nor do I care to speculate on it, but I will look into it and see. My suspicion, though, is that they are two similar characters and people just want them to be related for some strange reason.

The songs in this film are great. Often times, a musical will have those 1 or two songs that you’ll be singing months after you watch, and the rest will be forgotten soon after they are over. Well, almost all of these songs are sure to be stuck in your head, with a couple of exceptions, and those aren’t necessarily bad, just not as catchy.

When Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released, they all said it was the first to mix live action with cartoons. Well, those same people need to look at the scenes that take place in the sidewalk chalk art. Unless I’m seeing things, it looks very much like humans interacting with cartoons, in a cartoon world, no less!

As I said before, I have not read the book, but if this story is anywhere close to the source material then it will be a good read, because the audience can’t help but be enthralled by the plights, exploits, and adventures of each member of this cast, and how they all interact with each other.

It appears, though, that Disney altered the characterization of Mary Poppins. I’ve read that she was supposed to be a bit cruel and stern…ironically like the nanny she replaces or yo cold even go so far as to say Nanny McPhee, if you’d like.

I would have liked a bit more emphasis on the mother, but that’s just a personal preference, rather than a slight against the films. Also, the staff seems to be great comic relief. Using them a bit more might have been a good idea, as well.

Julie Andrews at this time was fresh on the scene. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this is her big screen debut. What a debut, huh? Just think, though, things just went up from here, even if she has spent the majority of her career as either a nanny or in her later years as some sort of regal figure, such as a queen.

Dick Van Dyke is constantly getting flack for his cockney accent. People are saying that it ruins the film. Personally, I like it. His accent works for his character and throws a bit of spice into a cast that all seem to have the same cookie cutter British accent.

So, what is the final verdict on Mary Poppins? Well, this is hands down one of the best non animated Disney films. I think only Old Yeller is anywhere near as good. With a few minor exceptions, I have to say that this film is, to quote Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way”.

5 out of 5 stars

Tooth Fairy

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spolier alert!!!):

Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) is a minor league hockey player nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy”, for hitting opposing players so hard that he knocks out their teeth.

One night, Derek steals a dollar from his girlfriend Carly’s (Ashley Judd) six-year-old daughter Tess (Destiny Whitlock) that had been left for her lost tooth. Later that night, he receives a summons under his pillow. He magically grows wings and is transported to the realm of tooth fairies. There, he meets his case worker, Tracy (Stephen Merchant), and the head fairy, Lily (Julie Andrews). Lily tells Derek that he is a “dream crusher”, due to his unsympathetic dealings with children, and Tess in particular. He is then sentenced to serve two weeks as a tooth fairy. He returns to his bed and wakes up, believing that it was a dream.

That night, Derek slowly realizes it wasn’t a dream after he receives a text message from Tracy for his first appointment. He then meets Jerry (Billy Crystal), who gives him the things he needs for duty, including Shrinking Paste (which shrinks the user down to about six inches in height), Invisible Spray (which makes the user invisible), Amnesia Dust (which makes people forget the past few seconds), Cat Away (a small airhorn designed to scare cats away), and Dog Bark Peppermints (that make people bark like a dog).

The next day, Carly and Tess go to a party, leaving Derek to take care of Carly’s teenage son, Randy (Chase Ellison), who wants to grow up to be a rockstar. Randy dislikes Derek for being similar to his mother’s past boyfriends. Later, Derek defends Randy against a bully and Randy grows to like him.

Derek visits several children and tries his best to become a good tooth fairy, but ends up ultimately causing more harm than good (like when he overuses the Amnesia Dust on a family). Lily states that he is the worst tooth fairy ever and denies him more supplies for the remainder of his sentence. However, he buys some second-hand tooth fairy supplies from another fairy named Ziggy (Seth MacFarlane). When he uses these for his next assignment, they malfunction and he is seen by the child’s mother and arrested. While behind bars, Tracy tells Derek that because of this, his duty is extended to 3 weeks. Soon after, Carly comes to bail him out.

Derek also becomes a better tooth fairy by helping Tracy become an official tooth fairy despite not having any wings.

After Derek attempts to score a goal during a hockey game and misses, Derek’s coach threatens to bench him the next game. That night, frustrated over what happened at the game, Derek tells Randy that he will never become a rockstar, causing Randy to smash his guitar. With her son upset, Carly ends her relationship with Derek. Later, Tracy comes to Derek’s house and announces that he is a tooth fairy in training.

The next game, Derek gets back on the ice and sees Tracy. Tracy, in an attempt to teach Derek the importance of dreams, wants Derek to score a goal—and to go get Tess’ tooth. Derek scores the goal, gets into his tooth fairy costume, and flies away while Tracy spreads Amnesia Dust on the audience, telling them that they should have good luck trying to find their cars.

At Carly’s, Tess sees Derek taking her tooth, but she promises to keep it a secret, and Derek uses his magic wand to grant Randy a new guitar, as an apology. Downstairs, Carly sees him as a tooth fairy, but assumes that he rented a costume for Tess’ sake (which makes Carly forgive him his earlier harshness). He then flies Randy to the talent show, but throws Amnesia Dust on him.

Derek heads back to the fairy realm to give Lily the tooth, and is told that he has been relieved of his fairy duties. Lily throws Amnesia Dust on him, then transports him back to the talent show. There, Randy outperforms everyone and ends up forming a band with other kids in the show. Derek proposes to Carly, and she accepts.

During the credits, Derek is shown playing left wing for the Los Angeles Kings, and when he sees Jerry in the crowd, he doesn’t recognize him. Jerry reports back to Lily—also attending the game—that their secret is safe. Jerry then uses shrinking paste and gets on the puck. He uses Cat Away on the goalie to enable Derek to score a goal.

REVIEW:

You know, when I was watching wrestling in the late 90s and early 2000s, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever see The Rock in a pink tutu. I know he did all these family films for his daughter and all, but personally, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally think he should get back to doing a few more action flicks for a while, like he did with Faster. Maybe his match with John Cena at Wrestlemania next year, will get the testosterone and adrenaline pumping again.

So, it is apparent that Tooth Fairy stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but what is it about? Well, we have this hockey player, Derek, who is playing in the minors and is apparently a force to be reckoned with. He is such the enforcer that he is constantly knocking teeth out. This is how he got the name “tooth fairy”.

After the game, a kind asks him for his autograph and tells him he’s gonna play in the NHL. This leads Derek to tell him that he has no chance, shattering the poor guy’s dreams and breaking his heart.

Derek is sent to Fairyland where he learns that the punishment for being a dream crusher is to serve time as a tooth fairy, similar to the way people are forced to serve on jury duty.

Hijinks ensue, as expected, then we get a montage and drama that leads to a climactic life changing moment and then the film ends.

I think the biggest problem I have with this film is how fake the wings looked. First off, this is a Disney film, if I’m not mistaken, so you can’t tell me that didn’t have the money to shell out for some decent looking wings. Did they spend the entire budget on The Rock, Billy Crystal, Julie Andrews, and Ashley Judd or something?

Second, while I enjoyed most of the humor here, it did seem to border on repetitious more often than not. Once the joke is used, move on to something else. After it is forgotten, then maybe you could come back to it, like they did with the cat away at the end, but otherwise stop beating a dead horse!

Maybe it was just me, bt it sure seemed like Derek smiled alot. I felt like I was watching a toothpaste commercial. Then again, I guess since this is Tooth Fairy, it wold make sense for him to show off the choppers, I guess.

Some people like films that feature multiple story arcs and such. I’m not one of those persons. The whole subplot dealing with the girlfriend’s son was fine, but when you also throw in the younger hockey phenom and the sudden interest in Tracy getting his wings (which seemed very It’s a Wonderful World, if you ask me), it was just too many things going on at one time and really distracted from the central plot of Derek making a fool of himself as the tooth fairy.

The cast here is ok, but I have to wonder why it is that they all decided they needed to be in this picture.

For instance, Julie Andrews is perfect as the queen fairy (not exactly sure what her title is), but it seemed as if they could have found anyone regal to do that role. now that I think about it, she might very well just be under some kind of Disney contract dating back to her Mary Poppins days.

Ashley Judd seemed to be wasted here. Sure, she beautiful and would be the perfect girlfriend for a professional hockey player, bt her character was nothing more than a couple of lines here and there, wondering what was going on when Derek disappeared.

Billy Crystal may very well have the best role in the film, as he is the one that gives Derek all the fairy supplies so that he can actually be a successful tooth fairy. Well, at least not get caught, anyway. The comedic  timing we all know Crystal for is still there and may actually be even better than ever, as he shows here.

So, when this film was first released a few years ago, I figured I’d put in my Netflix queue and eventually get to it. Well, I finally got to it. Was it worth the wait? I won’t say that, but it didn’t disappoint. Of course, I didn’t exactly have high expectations for it, either. Do I recommend this? Well, I suppose if you’re looking for a good family film, then it is worth a viewing, but otherwise it is just one of those films that you see on the shelf, stop for a second, then pass it on by.

3 out of 5 stars

Despicable Me

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with the news revealing that an Egyptian pyramid was stolen. When super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) hears of this, his pride is wounded and he plans to pull the biggest heist of the century by stealing the Moon.

Gru tries to get a loan from the Bank of Evil (which a sign notes tongue-in-cheek was “Formerly Lehman Brothers”) and meets a young super-villain, Vector (Jason Segel), who annoys him. Bank president Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett) refuses to grant Gru the loan until he obtains the shrink ray necessary for the plan. Mr. Perkins tells Gru that he is getting too old and that new super-villains are younger and better, like Vector, who is revealed to be the one who stole the Pyramid of Giza.

Gru and his minions steal the shrink ray from a secret lab in East Asia, but Vector steals it from him and shrinks his ship. Gru attempts to get the shrink ray back from Vector’s lair, but all his attempts to enter the lair prove futile. After seeing three orphaned girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) enter the lair to sell cookies to Vector, Gru adopts the girls from Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig), the head of the orphanage, to use them to steal back the shrink ray. Gru has his assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) build robots disguised as cookies. He then has the girls sell the robots to Vector, and the robots help Gru steal the shrink ray.

On the way home the girls ask to go to an amusement park. Gru agrees, intending to leave the girls there. Instead, the attendant says he, as an adult, has to ride the roller coaster with them. Gru ends up having fun with the girls. Back at home, he presents his plan to Mr. Perkins via video. The girls keep interrupting him. Perkins again refuses to give him the loan, claiming that although he doesn’t have a problem with the plan, he just wants a younger villain to do it instead. Gru has a flashback of his childhood, depicting his wanting to go to the moon after seeing the first moon landing. When he tried to impress his mother (Julie Andrews) with models of the rocket (and an actual working one), she just ignored him. Mr. Perkins calls Vector (revealed to be his son, whose real name is Victor) to the Bank of Evil to inform him that Gru has the shrink ray. Vector reassures his father that he will get the Moon. Gru almost abandons his plan due to lack of funds, but the girls and the minions take up a collection to keep it going.

However, Gru has to make a choice, because the moon will be in the optimal position for the heist on the same day as the girls’ ballet recital. Dr. Nefario, seeing the girls as a distraction, contacts Miss Hattie, who arrives to take the girls back. Gru, the Minions, and the girls are heartbroken. Gru goes on with his plan and flies to the moon.

Gru successfully shrinks and pockets the Moon. Gru remembers the ballet recital and rushes to it. However, it has ended by the time he arrives. There, he finds a ransom note from Vector demanding the moon in exchange for the girls. After Gru hands over the moon, Vector reneges on the deal, keeping the girls and the moon. This enrages Gru, who storms Vector’s lair, this time successfully breaching the defenses. Vector flies off in an escape pod with the girls. Gru holds on to the exterior of the ship. He nearly falls to his death, but is rescued by Dr. Nefario piloting the same ship that Vector shrunk before. Nefario reveals that the bigger the object, the quicker the effects of the shrink ray wear off. Very soon, the moon begins to grow and roll around inside Vector’s ship, hurting him and freeing the girls. The girls see Gru outside of the ship, and Gru tells them to jump over to him. Edith and Agnes successfully make it onto the ship, but before Margo can jump, Vector grabs her. The moon rolls again and knocks Vector over, and Margo grabs onto Gru’s grappling hook. Gru rescues her with the help of his minions, while the rapidly-expanding Moon wrecks Vector’s controls, causing his ship to carry it back into orbit.

Gru and the girls settle down to live a happy life as a family and Vector is stranded on the Moon. The girls give a special ballet recital for Gru, his minions, and his mother, who finally tells him she is proud of him and acknowledges him to be the better parent. The music changes from Swan Lake to You Should Be Dancing, and everyone rushes on stage to dance as the film ends.

REVIEW:

It seemed like a year before this film was released there was always a new promo everywhere you looked. With that kind of push behind it, one would expect that Despicable Me would be the best thing since sliced bread, right? Well, I don’t know about all that, but it is pretty close.

Let me get the bad out of the way, first. Those 3 little girls! Sure, they add a “cuteness” factor and give Gru something to care for, but seriously, are they really necessary? I mean they ended up being nothing more than a distraction.

The next thing I had an issue with was the lack of villain, or rather lack of visible villains. This is minor issue, but it is an issue for me, nonetheless. There is this whole giant bank for villains to go to, yet we only see Gru and Vector. Where are the other villains?

My last qualm has to do with how these two seem to blend into normal neighborhoods, but it is quite obvious they don’t fit in. For goodness sakes, Gru freezes the entire line at the coffee shop just to get his coffee and muffin, and yet nothing is done about this. Of course, this can be filed under suspension of disbelief.

Now onto the good. This is some beautiful animation. I don’t know how the 3D worked for it, though. I wold imagine that the roller coaster scene and the minions playing as the credits roll are the only things that really took advantage of the technology, bt I could be wrong.

In contrast to the little girls, I loved the minions. Every villain has to have henchmen, and Gr has these mutated Twinkies in overalls. These little guys mumble in their own way, and yet are the most memorable characters in the film…even moreso than Gru.

Steve Carrell gives a Gru this great undetermined European accent that really works, and I would assume Julie Andrews was told to do the same for her character.

Jason Segel as Vector reminds me of Mandark from Dexter’s Laboratory, both in his look and mannerisms. I was half expecting him to do the nasally laugh.

Mr. Perkins, the bank manager seems to have been based on the boss from Dilbert, only they pumped him up and made him freakishly tall.

Russell Brand as the Dr. Nefario is pretty good, bt subdued for Brand. As the film was going on, I kept thinking to myself, I wonder what it would have been like if he had been the voice of Vector.

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed How to Train Your Dragon, and marveled at the brilliance in animation and the great story. Despicable Me isn’t as good as that particular film, but it is pretty close. This is one of those feel good family films that both kids and adults can enjoy.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars