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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Best Buy’s Movie Mode app isn’t the terror I thought it would be (at least not yet)

I worried, a while back, about Best Buy’s Movie Mode phone app, which translates for you the chatter of Gru’s Minions over the end credits of Despicable Me. I wondered if it would simply encourage more people to use their phones during movies, and as we all know, phone use during movies is one of the great scourges of our time, and needs to discouraged, not encouraged.

But when I attended a public showing of the movie last Friday night, I figured it was my journalistic duty to check it out and see how the app actually plays in reality, as opposed to in my fevered imaginings. So I downloaded the app while queued up to get into the theater.

It works like this: You get an alert in the preshow to start up Movie Mode, which then sets your phone to silent while the movie itself actually unspools. Then, as the end credits begin, your phone vibrates to let you know to pick it up and read along as the Minions go through the shenanigans. You read along on your phone as little comic-book style dialogue ballons pop up, with indicators to show you which little yellow blob is talking.
For the most part, the translations are so straightforward that — as is the case throughout the movie — it’s clear from their actions onscreen what the Minions are communicating. There were a couple of lines that were very funny and could not have been predicted, and there were a few amusing references to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, including one suggesting that it was playing in the screening room next door… which, even if it wasn’t, it could well have been. (It’s easy to see how those snippets — or any of the translated dialogue, really — could be tailored from week to week depending on what’s hot at the movies. If you use the app this weekend, I’d be curious to hear if you got Twilight jokes or, perhaps, Inception jokes instead.)

The main conundrum I’m left with after using Movie Mode is this: How does it work. Best Buy’s site for the app is suspiciously quiet on this matter, and I couldn’t find anything about it online. The friends I attended the movie with and I figured the app must listen for sound cues in the film to know when to start up. But there’s something just a little creepy about that, that an app could pick up ambient sounds and react to them.

If you want to try out Movie Mode for yourself, a word of warning: it works only with the 3D version of Despicable Me.

(Oh, and that’s Bob, above — he’s the Minion I created at the film’s official site. It kept me amused for a whole five minutes!)



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  • Rob

    There are currently apps that can identify a song for you playing in the background. For example, if you hear something playing in a store, the app can be asked to “listen to” it and tell you the song, album, singer, etc, so my guess is it would operate on a similar principle, but I know nothing about how technology actually works.

  • RogerBW

    Aha! That’s what this is for – to make people put their phones into silent mode during the film!

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