By Andrew Jenck
My favorite critics have come across certain movies in which critiquing them is a challenge, either giving the critic not much material to write about, or being a see-it-to-get-it movie. I came across both of those types of films this weekend with Baby Driver and Despicable Me 3; one of which is a breath of fresh air and the other being a whole bunch of nothing. So for this review, I will compare them in regard to the components of a film.
While I enjoyed the first two installments of the Despicable Me franchise, I’ve experienced fatigue since the mediocre spin-off, Minions, came out. Baby Driver, however, comes from legendary comedic director of Edgar Wright, of Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, and is an original film. You know, that thing that you always say you want but never actually see in the cinema. However, I don’t prefer Baby Driver simply because it’s original, but because it feels original. Sequels such as Mad Max: Fury Road or The Dark Knight can breathe new life into their series, but that’s where Despicable Me 3 falls flat.
The setup is great where Gru is at his lowest point. He’s recently lost his job, his wife is having trouble being a mother to his adopted-daughters, his longtime partner has been incapacitated, and the minions have left him, wanting him to be a villain again. When he does meet his long-lost twin-brother, he realizes that they are both failures in the eyes of the parent who raised him, but it’s never really brought up between the two. Any nuances as such are introduced but never addressed, preferring to focus on slapstick-heavy sequences and humor that’s either juvenile for the kids or dirty jokes for the adults to enjoy.
Baby Driver does have some elements that we’ve seen before. You have a getaway driver named Baby (yes, really) working for a crime syndicate who wants to abandon the crime life, especially when he meets a cute waitress. There are car chases, sequences set to classic songs, and a tragic backstory involving Baby’s mother. However, Wright is able to execute this brilliantly. He sets up the plot well as you immediately understand Baby’s character within the opening minutes. There are plenty of visual gags that you need to keep an eye out for. Heck, I’d have to see this multiple times to get every joke. Car chases are usually overdone in action movies, but the way they’re executed is outstanding. It’s hard to explain the scenes, as they are more realistic but done so creatively and differently. They’re set to some of the best rock n’ roll songs of all time and really compliment the piece in terms of the sound and editing.
Despicable Me 3 doesn’t have such direction. It’s overly complicated with too many subplots. There’s Gru bonding with his brother, his wife, Lucy, trying to bond with the girls, one of the girls searching for a unicorn, the minions in jail, and a 1980s-obsessed villain that Gru must stop. None of it is given time to develop, and the editing just seems to abruptly switch to a different scene. Wright edited Baby Driver in a way that each scene is woven into the next. Again, it’s hard to explain; you have to see the film to get it.
Finally, Baby Driver is more emotionally impactful. The characters are fully fleshed out through the dialogue and nuances displayed by the actors. The best action movies take their time with their characters to make their action scenes more intense, and Baby Driver is a great action film. Despicable Me 3 lacks the heart of the first film, focusing more on generic slapstick. Even the audience of parents with kids didn’t laugh that much. I’m struggling to remember it and I saw the film only a few days ago.
If you have kids, and you were going to take them to Despicable Me 3 no matter what, it’s serviceable enough, but we need to support more films such as Baby Driver. I know I’ve been somewhat vague about it, so to summarize, my main message is: GO SEE IT. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen all year; a throwback to when the summer blockbusters could be new, risky, and refreshing. It’s one that you’ll buy the soundtrack for and have a blast seeing with your friends because it’s miles ahead of the cartoon.