I have to admit something right off the bat: I'm cartooned out. I haven't watched this many cartoons in a three-week span in years, and I only watched two.
I'm not used to sharing the theatre with so many boisterous, giggling little kids. It's a different noise when the theatre is full of children, instead of adults. I've enjoyed both my forays into the animated world, so maybe I should rethink my stance on watching more cartoons the rest of the summer?
A few weeks ago, I saw and reviewed Toy Story 3 and loved every single thing about it. My year end favorites list will definitely include it.
Despicable Me has a lot to live up to the coming so soon in Toy Story 3's aftermath, and it delivers a breezy little dose of lighthearted zaniness. While it lacks the depth and sophistication of Toy Story 3, Despicable Me offers up more than enough silly charm to make it a fun and entertaining bit of diversion for the family this summer.
Gru (Steve Carell) is a bad guy. Fancying himself a "super-villain" who lives amongst the people in an ordinary setting, Gru is forced to do his evil in small ways: tormenting kids, freezing people in line to cut to the front, not mowing his yard, painting his house purple in a sea of colorless suburban uniformity. Not exactly dastardly deeds, but he was involved with stealing the Times Square Jumbotron and miniature versions of the Statue of Liberty in the past year, so there are some things for him to be proud of.
Gru has big plans for the future, and it involves stealing the moon to put himself at the top of the list of great villains. On his side is Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and a horde of fluffy, yellow "minions" who are big-eyed, mumbling, squeeky-voiced and on adorable overload. It takes an astronomical amount of money to build the rockets needed to launch to the moon and back, so Gru is forced to approach the Bank of Evil (formally Lehman Brothers) to get a loan. Problem is Gru is a bad investment: too old and not ambitious.
Vector (Jason Segel) is a high-tech whipper-snapper villain who just stole the pyramids in Egypt. That's ambition.
Gru is jealous of Vector, and both begin to go after a shrink gun that will allow them to reduce the moon to miniscule size for display in the lair as evidence of their crimes.
When Gru figures out that the only way into Vector's gadget-laden fortress is by adopting three sweet little orphan girls, he takes them in and begins the path that will redeem his blackened heart.
It's interesting that Gru, the lead character in Despicable Me and essentially a bad guy, is the protagonist in the film. Sure, Gru begins to bond with the three cutesy girls, but he's still a selfish, thieving criminal for the first half of the movie. I liked the film most when Gru was in "bad" mode. I wonder what this story would have played like had it had a darker tone to it?
Gru doesn't maintain his law forsaking ways (not really a spoiler as this is a family film), but I found myself wishing he'd resist the orphan's innocence and remain an outlaw -- a bumbling, ridiculous one at that but still on the side of wrong doing.
Steve Carell is a funny guy and was a wise choice to voice the odd character that is Gru. Carell adopts a strange accent that sounds German or Eastern European with pauses and sort of a broken English vibe to his performance. Segal, Brand, Danny McBride, Will Arnett and others didn't stand out that much regarding their voice work. I found the minions sort of irritating with their made-up language, high-pitched voices and immunity from physical harm.
Another negative element is the lack of real character development for anyone -- Gru, Vector and all of the support. All attention to detail was given to the surface elements of the movie.
Kids will probably really like Despicable Me; adults will forget it five minutes after it's over. It's fast-paced, goes by in a blur and utilizes a lot of vivid, colorful animation. There's a 3D version and a 2D version to choose from, but I can't see the justification for watching it in 3D. Just stick to the 2D, and you won't have to fool with the irritating glasses and you'll save a few bucks as well.
Despicable Me is just another example of Hollywood trying to gauge the consumer by offering the more expensive, unnecessary 3D experience. It's not worth it.
Despicable Me is no Pixar movie, but I'm sure its creators are fine with that since it aims for something different. It goes for the cute and adorable over depth and actual story. It is a cartoon after all and anything that can make a child giggle a lot has to be a success.
Even though I'm cartooned out, there's lots of giggling to be had by Despicable Me, a film loaded with so many goofy antics it's impossible to resist.
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