Tag Archives: Jon Hamm

Yellow Fellows

‘Minions’ breaks out ‘Despicable’ sidekicks for solo shenanigans

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Starring Sandra Bullock & Jon Hamm

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

PG

Their sideline shenanigans got some of the biggest laughs in Despicable Me (2010) and its 2013 sequel. Now the minions, those little nubby, yellow, evil-enabling assistants, headline their own madcap spinoff about their long, crazy quest to find the “most despicable master” of all to serve.

And what a quest—it begins, we find out (as guided by the narration of Geoffrey Rush) in primordial ooze and quickly bops through various incidents across the centuries as the minions seek out a succession of “bad guys” from dinosaurs and Dracula to an Egyptian pharaoh, Napoleon and an abominable snowman. But they always bungle things, with comically disastrous consequences.

So they keep moving, throughout the centuries and around the globe, until a trio of minion explorers (Kevin, Bob and Stuart) lands in New York City in 1968. Then things shift into comedic high gear as directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda riff on the vibrant sights and sounds of the era (the movie has a killer soundtrack of groovy late-’60s tunes) and serve up a buffet of pop-cultural cleverness for all ages.

2421_FPF2_00051RWhen Kevin, Bob and Stuart see a late-night TV ad for Villain-Con, an upcoming Comic-Con-like convocation of baddies, they know they have to hook up with event’s headliner, the queen of mean, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).

The minions have always had an instant appeal to kids, for obvious reasons: They look like wobbly toddlers, they speak gibberish (a goo-goo gush of Euro-babble, provided by director Coffin) and there’s an innate goodness and innocence underneath whatever “bad” they might otherwise be trying to do. They’re guaranteed laughs from children by just walking onto the screen.

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Sandra Bullock provides the voice of supervillain Scarlett Overkill.

But there’s so much more to the humor here; parents will be greatly entertained by the vocal performances of Bullock as the preening villainess (which some major unresolved childhood issues); Jon Hamm as her groovy spy-gadget-guru husband; and Michael Keaton and Allison Janney as a bank-robbing mom and pop.

The plot zips and zings through dozens of silly sight gags, especially when things move to England and a scheme to steal the queen’s crown. A minion on stilt-like, spy-suit extension legs runs amok in the streets of London to the tune of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” Two minions flee a buzzing bee round and round on a cathedral chandelier, and with every frantic lap the fixture unscrews more and more. Rays from a “hypno hat” cause a trio of royal guards strip down to their undies—and break into a gonzo chorus from the musical Hair. The minions intrude on The Beatles’ photo shoot for the cover of Abbey Road.

Stay for a closing-credits montage that brings the minions full circle with Gru (Steve Carell), their master in the two Despicible movies—and a delightful ensemble treat from the whole cast.

At times it made me think of what the Three Stooges would be like if Moe, Larry and Curly were recast for the modern age as pint-size, goggle-wearing, butter-hued niblets. It may not be high humor, but boy, it sure made me laugh.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Here’s The Pitch

Jon Ham stars in unlikely true underdog baseball tale

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Million Dollar Arm

Starring Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma & Alan Arkin

Directed by Craig Gillespie

PG, 124 min.

Based on a true story from 2008, Million Dollar Arm stars TV’s Mad Men leading man Jon Hamm as a struggling sports agent who goes scouting for baseball’s next pitching superstars in an unlikely part of the world.

After hopeful negotiations to rep a pro footballer (played by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga) fall through, Hamm’s character, J.B. Bernstein, and his business partner (Aasif Mandif) turn their sights to baseball, hoping to find a young, unknown, unsigned player. But where? All the international hot spots (Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, even China) have already been staked out and tapped.

In a flash of inspiration, J.B. sees a cricket match on TV and gets an idea: Go to India, a country where baseball is virtually unknown, find cricket “bowlers” who can pitch, and bring them back to America.

MILLION DOLLAR ARMSo he concocts a contest, called the Million Dollar Arm, and sets off to the other side of the globe to discover what he hopes will be the next ballpark sensations—and the ticket to keeping his small agency afloat.

Hamm is the star of this show, clearly, but Million Dollar Arm is also a movie about journeys, geographical as well as emotional. As J.B. adjusts to his new surroundings in India, we meet the two young men, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, from Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma, the star of Life of Pi), that will eventually be chosen for a shot—a long one, at that—at baseball’s big leagues, and we come to understand their anxieties about leaving their families, their rural villages, and the only ways of life they’ve ever known.

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Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma portray the two contestants ultimately chosen to come to America.

J.B. is accompanied on his trip by a grumpy semi-retired American baseball scout (Alan Arkin, dialing in his usual comical crankiness), and he ultimately brings his new recruits home to learn fundamentals under the tutelage of a former MLB player now coaching college ball (Bill Paxton, portraying real-life USC coach Tom House with just the right dose of sunburn and seasoning).

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Lake Bell and Jon Hamm

Bollywood actor-comedian Pitobash brings both heart and humanity to his sidekick role as J.B.’s volunteer Indian assistant, who dreams of someday becoming a baseball coach himself. But the movie’s real “heart” belongs to Lake Bell, as J.B.’s brainy med-student guesthouse renter, whose graceful, unforced acting keeps her character’s slow-blooming romance with J.B. feeling more sincere than sappy.

The Disney folks surely took some license, as moviemakers often do, but all of this really happened. To see just how closely the film paralleled the real characters, stay for the credits and the photos, video clips and other postscript highlights.

More cynical viewers might wish for a more cynical movie, a movie with more rough edges or tough breaks or dark corners. But for anyone who wants to bask in a ray of early summer sunshine, this uplifting, spirit-boosting tale of baseball, dreams, second chances and the grand, glorious game of life itself could be just the ticket.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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