Directed by: Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gier Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins Rating: PG Release Date: July 9, 2010
PLOT: A world-famous super villain named Gru (Carell) meets his match when he adopts three girls in order to defeat his competitor, Vector (Segel).
WHO'S IT FOR?: The kids will enjoy this notably more than the parents who are buying the tickets.
EXPECTATIONS: Even though this was coming after Toy Story 3, there was still hope that his would be a standout non-Pixar just like Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. The few trailers that I had seen had me hoping that this would be more than just fart jokes, and that Steve Carell would be more than amusing in the unique role.
Steve Carell as Gru: The well-known comedian disguises his voice with a fiendish Russian/Eastern Bloc accent, which is successfully amusing, but not much else. As a villain he is most funny when performing the jokes on other people, but this is short-lived so that he may be the butt of so many cute-ish gags (especially when he adopts three girls). Score: 5
Jason Segel as Vector: Every bit of evil is given a goofy edge, but Vector’s persona gets the most severe curbing. Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel turns up any nasal quality in his original voice to play this cocky dork, who is most amusing when we watch his instruments (security sharks, etc.). Still, Segel proves to a Carell level that he can differentiate his voice while still being recognizable. Give this man a Muppet! Score: 5
Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gier as Margot, Agnes, and Edith: On screen, these three orphans differ in appearance because one of them wears a hat, one of them has glasses, and the other still sounds like a baby. Reflectively, they run together as a trio of blandly created cute-mongers, with the heaviest offender going to the youngest member. In more ways than one, she seems to be “inspired” by the same adorability factor that made character “Boo” from Monsters Inc. so memorable. But these kids aren’t – they just want to belong, and that’s it. This story doesn't give them a setting to write home about. Score: 3
TALKING: A decent amount of noticeable names (Ken Jeong, Danny McBride, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Rob Huebel) appear in the movie, but for a short time. And if I’m not mistaken, some minimal characters even facially resemble the person who is voicing them. Their appearances are fleeting, and the dialogue isn’t as funny as it could’ve been, especially with the comedic cast utilized throughout. Score: 4
SIGHTS: The heaviest serving of what imagination this film has can be seen in Gru’s gadgets, not including his “Fart-Gun.” At times, subtle visual humor is used, and often to try to keep the adults amused (the “Bank of Evil” has a sub-title reading “Formerly The Lehman Brothers”). Wearing 3D glasses might be justified just this once with a handful of scenes that take advantage of animation’s unlimited visual possibilities. A ride on a wild roller coaster offers some brief fun for the movie, despite its very obvious placement. Score: 5
SOUNDS: N.E.R.D songwriter Pharell Williams churns out some sugary hip-pop songs that sound as if they were inspired by the later days of the Beach Boys. (This is also fitting considering one of the tunes is called “Fun, Fun, Fun.”) The most striking element of the movie that does not lose its touch, the soundtrack contributes to a freshness that is seems to be evasive to Despicable Me. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: For his character introduction, Gru blows up a special balloon for a boy he sees on the street. As the whippersnapper is cherishing his canine-shaped helium contraption, Gru's hands quickly come on screen and pop the balloon, which causes him (and myself) to grin and laugh. This is the type of evil, yet harmless humor that the movie should have stuck to. Unfortunately, it is one of the only examples in the entire film.
ENDING: In between the beginning of the closing credits, Despicable Me takes advantage of the 3D one last time to throw some more “in-your-face” action at its audience.
QUESTIONS: As much as I don’t enjoy 3D, is it possible that this movie’s ability to be enjoyed can be enhanced by paying the extra two dollars to wear those damn glasses?
REWATCHABILITY: For the proper age group, this could be fun in theaters. But the story itself is not special enough to maintain a child’s typical rewatching potential. Besides, they could get the same amount of cuteness from eating cotton candy, or something.
“Despicable” can be defined as “deserving to be despised.” While one could vouch that the orphans are “despicable” for taking this originally clever concept down to the cute Hell of Candy Land, it is assumed that Carell’s Gru, a lanky pointy nosed nemesis is the “Me” being referred to in this film’s odd title. Of course, a movie of this nature is never expected to seriously maintain its level of evil’s darkness, no matter how comical it may be (popping a boy’s dog balloon), but this story tries far too hard redeem whatever “malevolent” nature they may be in Carell’s goofy bad guy. (As the voiceover in the trailer says, “He may be a badguy, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.”)
Nearly twenty minutes in, the mission of Despicable Me to provide comical villainous humor is dropped to speak baby talk to its audience, a level of intelligence that can be especially heard in the mutterings of the carefully conceived Corn Pop-like minions with big eyes and dorky haircuts. What proceeds is a melange of weak action (a dogfight scene doesn’t deliver) and more “villains are dorks” humor. Then, the three orphans, who are only memorable by their physical appearance, are dropped into Gru’s lap, and the assumed plot of Despicable Me to shake up the “bad guys being good” idea is defeated. (As Agnes says in the trailer, while shaking a stuffed unicorn, “It’s so fluffy!”) While the orphans felt originally like side-characters to the main focus of Gru trying to steal the moon, Despicable Me misplaces its hint of a fresh edge once the orphans are seriously considered to be main characters. The imagination peters out up until the third act, with the final “showdown” providing the creativity lacking in both story construction and art design. The most clever aspect of Despicable Me is probably how Segel’s Vector found a way to “hide” the stolen Great Pyramids (he paints and places them in his backyard).
One might try to reason, “But this is a movie for kids!” Of course, but that isn’t a very complimentary excuse to a film’s universal storytelling capabilities, nor an agreement to its potential. A movie especially like Despicable Me has a chance at being something fresh. But instead it's disappointing, and worst of all, diabolically cutesy.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10