I think, unless the product is a bankable franchise like Harry Potter or, God forbid, the Twilight saga, the future of cinema is in family friendly computer animated movies. Disney/Pixar blazoned the trail with fantastic imagery and strong underlying stories (Up, Toy Story 3, to name a few). DreamWorks Animation followed suit with their Shrek and Madagascar romps. Fox Animation has their own series too — Ice Age. Now Universal, teaming up with Illumination Entertainment, brings Despicable Me, a light-hearted fare that shows us that even the coldest of hearts can be tenderized with love.
Gru (voiced by Steve Steve Carell) is the cold hearted protagonist/antagonist of Despicable Me. Priding himself on being the superest of supervillains — he’s stolen the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty (Las Vegas versions) and the Times Square Jumbotron — Gru suddenly finds himself being upstaged by another. The Great Pyramid of Giza has been swiped by a jogging suit wearing newcomer named Vector (voiced by Jason Segel).
Not to be outdone and to get the Evil Bank (formerly Lehman Brothers) to finance his operations, Gru (who looks a bit like a plumped up Nosferatu and sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger), with fellow scientist Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand), concoct a new plan to gain notoriety — steal the moon! But before they can put their plan in motion, the shrink ray needed to make this happen is stolen from them by Vector (after they themselves stole it from North Korean caricatures). Here is where the cutesy part of the movie comes into focus. To gain access to Vector’s impenetrable compound, Gru adopts three orphaned sisters from Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls — Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (voiced by Elsie Fisher) and Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier) — who he expects will lower Vector’s guard when they knock on his door to sell him cookies (with robots in them, no less).
And so Gru, who enjoyed giving balloons to children only to pop them, finds three little girls are not as easy to deal with as his faithful Minions (little, Twinkie-shaped and colored helpers who steal plenty of the scenes they are in). Smartly written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, Gru undergoes a slow, heartfelt transformation which can be summed up wholly in three separate scenes in the movie (not so surprisingly placed at the beginning, middle and end) where he is asked to read the girls a bedtime story.
The entire premise of Despicable Me, however, is overly farcical which may annoy the adults in attendance (the kids won’t mind a bit). I mean, c’mon, a scientist, no matter how evil he is, knows the consequences of removing the moon from Earth’s orbit and, I speculate, would also be aware that the incredible density the moon would have if shrunk to so small of a size would make moving it impossible (but hey, I’m no astrophysicist, so I could be entirely wrong). The film lacks pacing too; while the whole family thing is touching, the scenes, on more than one occasion, bring things to a crawl making one yearn for more of those silly Minions to do something stupid.
The voice talent and animation is average — it’s nothing one hasn’t seen done better before (see any of the aforementioned animated movies mentioned in the first paragraph). I’m still debating on whether I liked the accent Carell gave to Gru. I am sure, however, that I was a bit disappointed with the lack of Russell Brand’s fire in the chicken-necked Dr. Nefario — hell, you can’t even tell it’s Brand lending his voice to the character. And as with all 3D movies, a mention must be made as to how well it was employed. It’s not too bad here; thankfully the 2D colors aren’t the most vibrant anyways, so the 3D effect doesn’t blur and mute nearly as much as it could have.
Through and through Despicable Me is a kid’s flick; there is very little in way of adult entertainment to be found within its 95 minute running time. This, I suppose can be construed as a good thing though, after-all, do we really need a Lindsay Lohan (or other suitable lost celebrity cause) reference tossed in yet another feature for the benefit of mommy and daddy? I vote, “No,” but would have certainly enjoyed watching those little yellow buggers do or say something more “unconventional.”