For a re­view of “Despicable Me 3,”

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Back in 2010, Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment re­leased the Min­ions into theworld via the first “Despicable Me” film. They were the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters to re­formed su­pervil­lain Gru ( Steve Carell). But it was the im­pu­dent lit­tle yel­low crea­tures— their fea­ture­less bod­ies shaped like rub­bery tater tots, chat­ter­ing gib­ber­ish lan­guage some­where be­tween Ital­ian and alien, with bawdy senses of hu­mor — who in­vaded our minds, hearts, homes and memes, and be­came a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non. Thingswere never the same again. Yel­low took on a newmean­ing.

Although the Min­ions now have their own film ( of the same name), they still pull back- up duty in the “Despicable Me” fran­chise, and yes, they are some what awk­wardly shoe­horned into “Despicable Me3,” a ser­vice able stop on the in­evitable way to “Despicable Me4.” As a cou­ple of hours of kid ter­tain­ment, you could do worse, but it’s noth­ing to write home about.

“Despicable Me 3,” di­rected by Pierre Cof­fin, Eric Guil­lon and Kyle Balda, writ­ten by Cinco Paul and Ken Dau­rio, re­lies on pre- es­tab­lished au­di­ence fa­mil­iar­ity with the char­ac­ters and uni­verse of the fran­chise, and then just throws sub­plots on top of sub­plots on top of that. Each story is so shal­low that it feels like a se­ries of shorts, with only the flim­si­est of nar­ra­tive threads stitch­ing the whole thing to­gether.

Two new char­ac­ters are in­tro­duced in this third in­stall­ment: Balt­hazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker, is the an­tag­o­nist, a washed up child ac­tor from the ’ 80s turned su­per- vil­lain, with a se­ri­ous axe to grind against the in­dus­try that re­jected him as a pim­ply, pubescent teen. He’s got a mul­let, a key­tar, a pur­ple suit with shoul­der pads, and one heckof a mu­sic li­cens­ing budget ( it’s packed with snip­pets of hits from Michael Jack­son to Van Halen). The other new char­ac­ter is a side­kick, Dru ( also Steve Carell), Gru’s lon­glost twin brother.

Af­ter los­ing their jobs, Gru, wife, Lucy ( Kristen Wiig) and their girls head to Fre­do­nia to meet Dru, the head of the fam­ily pig farm­ing busi­ness, which is ac­tu­ally a front for su­per- vil­lainy, ex­cept Dru is ter­ri­ble at it. While Grushows himthe ropes, the­women-folk sam­ple the lo­cal Fre­do­nian cul­ture, and go uni­corn hunt­ing. Even­tu­ally, it all comes to­gether as they have to unite to fight Balt­hazar, who is in­tent on de­stroy­ing Hol­ly­wood with bub­ble gum and lasers.

As for the Min­ions, un­sat­is­fied with Gru’s do­mes­tic bliss, they go to jail, in one of the film’s most ran­dom sub­plots, af­ter they in­vade a singing com­pe­ti­tion. It gives them some­thing to do, and it gives the stu­dio the op­por­tu­nity for some se­ri­ously ques­tion­able mar­ket­ing de­ci­sions — be­cause noth­ing says fam­ily fun like jokes about Amer­ica’s prison cul­ture. That’s pretty despicable, in fact.

Parker’s ’ 80s- in­spired su­per- vil­lain is prob­a­bly the most en­ter­tain­ing part of the film, aside from per­haps the Fre­do­nian cheese festival. But “Despicable Me 3” is some­how less than the sum of its parts. The shrill, raspyvoiced shout­ing from Carell and Parker turn into a jumble of noise, and it’s dif­fi­cult to pick out punch­lines. The whole thing might as well all be writ­ten in Min­ions chat­ter. It’s wacky, but some­how dull, kind of like con­vers­ing with a Min­ion.

“Despicable me 3,” an Il­lum­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment re­lease, is rated PG for ac­tion and rude hu­mor. Run­ning time: 90 min­utes. ½

“Baby Driver”

It’s an ac­tion mu­si­cal. It’s a crime tragi­com­edy. It’s awe­some.

“Baby Driver” is a tri­umph of road- smok­ing wheels, high- cal­iber gun bat­tles, un­re­lent­ing thrills and un­ex­pected laughs. It rock­ets more vis­ceral ex­cite­ment and solid nar­ra­tive in a slick, nitro- fu­eled 112 min­utes than seems hu­manly pos­si­ble. The sheer wack­i­ness of the film leaves the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” fran­chise jeal­ously suck­ing its ex­haust.

The story fea­tures a flock of cool bad­dies and hot love­birds. Ansel El­gort de­liv­ers a “re­mem­ber that name” per­for­mance and movie star smile as Baby, the fresh- faced young wheel man of an At­lanta crime car­tel. His ear­buds al­most never leave his ears, switch­ing be­tween a col­lec­tion of old­school iPods, each packed with a mix of jams for dif­fer­ent moods. They help drown out the noisy tin­ni­tus he de­vel­oped fol­low­ing a child­hood traf­fic ac­ci­dent. The beats also help him cre­atively chore­o­graph the clutch grind­ing and brake stomp­ing in his driv­ing stunts.

The film opens with a break­neck, car- crunch­ing high­way es­cape se­quence, seam­lessly edited to the beat of “Bell­bot­toms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion. The track’s two- minute build­ing in­tro is a per­fect fit for the driver wait­ing for the end of his pas­sen­gers’ bank heist. When the rock ’ n’ roll re­ally kicks in, it’s get­away time. We flow to a smooth, lengthy track­ing shot as Baby goes slip- slide romp­ing along a down­town street in per­fect sync with Bob & Earl’s smooth “Har­lem Shuf­fle.” On most of the build­ings and walls he passes, key words from the song lyrics are hid­den in posters and graf­fiti, each pop­ping into view pre­cisely on cue.

The peo­ple in­side the story are as win­ningly in­tri­cate as the sound­track. Al­most ev­ery­one in the cast leaves a scary- comic im­pres­sion. The young an­ti­hero, Baby, was forced into his job as an un­armed speed racer by Doc ( Kevin Spacey), a crim­i­nal mas­ter­mind who’s both stern and re­mark­ably fair- minded. Even in a cast of mul­ti­lay­ered char­ac­ters, he stands out, the sort of felon who will set up a ma­jor heist while babysit­ting his lit­tle nephew, who has pre­co­cious rip- off ten­den­cies of his own. Spacey de­liv­ers some of the script’s fun­ni­est lines, re­act­ing to the com­mon­place ro­man­tic is­sues faced by one of his crime crew with a dead­pan, “I was in love once.”

Doc’s bank rob­bing crew in­cludes Jamie Foxx, Jon Bern­thal, Jon Hamm and the runt- ish Flea from the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers. They’re all en­tirely com­mit­ted as trig­ger men with var­i­ous lev­els of hot­headed, cold­blooded psy­chosis. Wright makes them in­di­vid­ual, mul­ti­di­men­sional and lay­ered, even those who are on- screen for only a few scenes. The sole char­ac­ter who needs se­ri­ous ex­pand­ing is a wispy, vanilla- fla­vored plot de­vice named Deb­ora ( Lily James, who does her best to sell it), a fetch­ing cof­fee shop wait­ress who in­spires Baby to plan his own get­away from the crim­i­nal un­der­world.

It’s a risky life­style. Much of “Baby Driver” is fo­cused on whether any of the char­ac­ters will stay alive throughthe next epic po­lice gun battle or rock­et­ing get­away de­mo­li­tion derby. Edited with sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion to the sound­track’s pop gems, the melees are not the end­less, numb­ing se­quences fea­tured in too many films. These clashes are gor­geously con­structed, the mind- blow­ing flu­id­ity of their com­bat serv­ing as a sort of setup, and the final blow as the punch­line. As Baby’s plan to ab­scond and un­der­mine the op­er­a­tion emerges, he’s in a lot of gun sights.

Luck­ily, Wright knows when to take a break and add a lit­tle eco­nom­i­cal sto­ry­telling so we can catch our breath. He’s a master of build­ing cin­e­matic cas­tles on genre foun­da­tions, as in his cult hits “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.” Here he uses fa­mil­iar ac­tion in­gre­di­ents to cre­ate a unique mashup. Wright turns a po­ten­tially mi­nor heist and get­away movie into a sym­phonic cat­a­log of pop mu­sic. The songs are rhyth­mi­cally syn­chro­nized to ev­ery on- tempo move and tech­ni­cal ef­fect in­side of each shot.

“Baby Driver” is loyal to the rhythms and rules of ’ 70s and ’ 60s en­ter­tain­ment, bless­edly fa­vor­ing real car stunts over CGI. As you might guess, by the time it gets to the end, the body count is high, the blood is spray­ing like Coke and Men­tos and, as al­ways, there is one more twist. It’s cheesy at heart, but this is ar­ti­sanal, gourmet cheese— sharp, fla­vor­ful and plated with ex­quis­ite artis­tic skill.

“Baby Driver,” a Tri-Star Pic­tures re­lease, is rated R for vi­o­lence and pro­fan­ity. Run­ning time: 113 min­utes.


Ansel El­gort, left, and Kevin Spacey star in “Baby Driver.”

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