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3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Despicable Me
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by Peter Sobczynski

"LeBron Signs With White Sox: Also To Appear In "Space Jam 2: Still Jammin"
4 stars

“Despicable Me” is an animated film that lacks the artistic ambitions of the Pixar films, the star-studded cast and crass commercial ambitions of the output from Dreamworks Animation and the endearingly oddball weirdness of such quirky works as “Coraline” or “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” And yet, despite the fact that it breaks no new ground and will probably slip from the collective consciousness the moment it leaves theaters, I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed it despite all of that. How to explain why I am suddenly willing to cut this particular film a break despite its lack of ambition when so many other recent films have annoyed me for that very same reason? Perhaps it was because I found myself responding to its modest desire to do nothing more than tell a bright, colorful and cheerfully silly story. Perhaps it was because it contained just enough inspired laughs to keep me going while keeping the bathroom humor and pop-culture-related gags to a minimum. Perhaps--and I suspect this may be the key reason--it was because I happened to see it immediately after sitting through the agony of “The Last Airbender” and I was so pathetically grateful to watch a film that didn’t serve as an all-out affront to my senses and intelligence that I was more receptive to its charms than I might have been if I had seen it right after sitting through “Toy Story 3.”

The anti-hero of the film is Gru (Steve Carell), a super-villain who seems to have been constructed out of equal parts of Dr. Evil, Uncle Fester and Gargamel. At first glance, Gru would seem to be at the top of his game--he has an enormous laboratory in the basement of his seemingly modest suburban home from which he devises his diabolical plans, he has a seemingly endless array of screaming yellow Minions ready to do his bidding and what he does to a little kid whom he discovers crying over some spilt ice cream would have inspired the admiration of W.C. Fields himself. However, it turns out that things are tough even in the world of super-villainy--many of his recent plots and schemes have had less than spectacular results (his latest hauls have included a Jumbotron and the faux Eiffel Tower found in Las Vegas) and the bank that has previously financed his plots (to reveal their identity would be to spoil the film’s funniest joke) thinks that he is getting a little too old for the job and is more interested in backing a young hotshot like Vector (Jason Segel), who just made off with the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The bank is willing to consider financing Gru’s latest plot--a plan to steal the moon--as soon as he acquires the top secret shrink ray gun that is its main component.

Unfortunately for Gru, his attempt to steal the shrink ray is foiled by Vector, who takes the contraption for himself and stores it behind the walls of his highly fortified compound where the home security system includes lasers, missiles and a great white shark amongst the deterrents. Gru is nothing if not resourceful, however, and when he discovers that a trio of adorable orphan girls--Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Elsie Fisher) and Edith (Dana Gaier)--have been admitted into Vector’s lair in order to sell him fundraising cookies, he devises a plan in which he will adopt the girls and when it comes time to deliver the cookies, he will take advantage of their access to steal the shrink ray with the help of some robot cookies devised by cohort Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand). The only hitch to this plan is that he has to, you know, take care of the girls, a job for which he is spectacularly unsuited, thanks in no part to the example set by his own not-exactly-nurturing mother (Julie Andrews) when he was a barehead boy with cheek and scalp of tan. However, in a development that will come as a complete surprise to anyone who has never heard of such things as movies before, he finds himself unexpectedly bonding with the girls even as he puts his plan into motion and eventually arrives at a point where he has to decide whether he wants his coffee mug to read “World’s Greatest Supervillain” or “World’s Greatest Dad.” Put it this way--there have been any number of films over the years in which a workaholic father races against time to arrive at his child’s recital or school pageant just in time to see them hit the stage but I believe that this is the first version of that scenario where Dad is racing through the void of outer space instead of rush hour traffic.

As I mentioned before, there is not a lot to “Despicable Me” that is exceptionally original--the gimmick about a evil and cruel type unexpectedly finding his heart melting thanks to some cute kids is eminently familiar, most of the characters seem to have been bought in bulk from other animated films (the minions, for example, are a carbon copy of the delightful Martians from the “Toy Story” films) and the elaborate gadgetry at Gru’s beck and call is straight out of the old Road Runner cartoons. Nevertheless, I still found myself enjoying it to a certain degree for a number of reasons. I kind of dug the Euro-vibe running through the film via the highly stylized visuals and the funky musical score. I liked the relatively restrained approach used for the vocal casting--people like Carell and Brand score by underplaying roles that might have been turned into scenery-chewing turns in the hands of others, the girls are as adorable as all get out and the ever-reliable Julie Andrews gets big laughs with nothing more than a disdainful grunt. There are a few big laughs on display here and there--the best of the bunch include the “Spy vs. Spy”-inspired bouts between Gru and Vector and Gru’s encounter with the operator of a shady carnival game--and for the most part, they largely manage to avoid the contemporary cultural references or toilet-related gags that turn up too often in family films these days. (That said, I must admit to chuckling during the major flatulence-related gag on display) And when the sentimental stuff comes into play in the final reels, it manages to avoid becoming too cloying or mawkish for its own good. Best of all, it breezes in and out in a nicely paced 90 minutes and doesn’t quite wear out its welcome as a result.

At this point in the review, I would normally take a moment to mention that “Despicable Me” is in 3D and offer up the usual litany of complaints about the increasingly tiresome gimmick and how its distracting nature actually takes away from the full moviegoing experience. Although I would be perfectly happy at this point to never see another 3D movie for a very long time (with the obvious exception of “Resident Evil 4,” of course), I must confess that the process gets one of its better deployments this time around. The visual style is so shiny and colorful to begin with that the inevitable loss of nearly 30% of the screen brightness as the result of donning the glasses has less of an impact here than in other recent films of its type. Although it uses the process in a fairly restrained manner for the most part, there are a couple of moments when it actually uses the multi-dimensional aspect to good comedic effect--without spoiling anything, I implore you to remain in your seats when the end credits begin to roll. Of course, the biggest reason as to why I responded more positively to the 3D this time around may be because, as I mentioned before, I happened to see this film immediately after watching “The Last Airbender” and since that film had arguably the worst approximation of the process that I have ever seen, any moderately competent version of it would seem positively brilliant and electric by comparison. (That said, I am here to tell you that attempting to sit through two 3D movies in a row back to back is not a good idea by any stretch of the imagination if you have any plans on using your eyeballs at all after you have finished watching them.)

As I said before, “Despicable Me” is hardly a masterpiece of modern animation along the lines of “Toy Story 3” and if you somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing that one yet, there is no earthly reason why you should go out of your way to see this one first. On the other hand, its modest ambitions and light, easygoing touch is far easier to tolerate than the aggressively annoying hackery of something like “Shrek Forever After” in which there is virtually no difference between the film and its hard-sell promo campaign, and the end result should provide 90 minutes of easygoing diversion for family members both young and old. Put it this way--“Despicable Me” may not be a great animated film but it will do nicely until the next one does come along.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18784&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/09/10 00:20:59
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Astana International Action Film Festival For more in the 2010 Astana International Action Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/08/19 Louise (the real one) How can anyone not love this? Cute, funny and very cleverly done! Marvellous! 5 stars
9/01/14 Mario is the Best This movie is AWESOME!! 5 stars
12/25/13 Charles Tatum Charming animation, very funny and cute 4 stars
7/06/11 millersxing props go to Pharrell (saved the soundtrack) and Carell and Co. (saved the animators) 4 stars
6/11/11 Dr.Lao I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would 4 stars
2/21/11 KingNeutron Lots of LOL moments, but the music was really subpar 4 stars
1/29/11 Amy Such a funny and cute movie- I love the minions :) 5 stars
11/17/10 Roy Smith It's pure product with zero surprises and extensive theft from Pixar! 3 stars
9/19/10 M Could of been funnier/edgier but still worth the ticket price! 4 stars
7/31/10 Cheryl W. Heartwarming, great plot, hope to see a sequeal! 5 stars
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  09-Jul-2010 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Dec-2010

  15-Oct-2010 (U)

  09-Sep-2010 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Dec-2010

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