Theatrical Review: DESPICABLE ME
Writers: Ken Daurio (screenplay), Sergio Pablos (story), Cinco Paul (screenplay)
Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig
Studio: Universal Pictures
It’s not easy being a supervillain. First of all, you’re constantly competing with the world’s other supervillains, who are always cooking up their own evil plans. Second of all, it’s not exactly the right economy to conduct more nefarious business (financing is a real bear). Third of all, it gets lonely. Wait, I didn’t say that one. It’s awesome being a supervillain! Who cares about anyone else! All I need is my freeze ray gun and my super-sweet vehicle that also flies and my pet that looks like a Venus Fly Trap brought to life. I’m not lonely! Not at all!
Meet Gru (Steve Carell). Gru is as family-friendly as supervillain can get – he doesn’t kill anyone, he just steals things. It’s fun. Until someone else steals something bigger and all Gru’s hard work just looks like, well, like he’s just stealing scaled models, and everyone else is stealing the real thing. When a new supervillain steals a pyramid (seriously, a whole pyramid!), Gru knows he needs to step up his game. Without a bigger get, his mother will never respect him, the Bank of Evil won’t finance him, and his Minions will end up unemployed. But what’s bigger than a pyramid? Look up.
Gru wants to steal the moon. But Gru’s not just in it for the glory and the honor, we soon learn that young Gru dreamed of rocketing to the moon. But, alas, Mama Gru (Julie Andrews) could care less about her son’s dreams and his impressive execution of them. This is Gru’s big chance. But how do you steal the moon? You shrink it, duh! But Gru’s Minions and his very own Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) may be adept at making cookie robots and playing ping-pong, but they suck at building the real weapons. However, they are pretty awesome at stealing them. Gru hatches a plan to make away with a government-crafted shrink ray gun, which will prove to the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) his plan has legs, then he get the cashola to build his rocket, and viola! Best supervillain ever!
But DESPICABLE ME throws a number of wrenches into this plan, including three adorable orphans, a denial by the Bank of Evil, and an idiotic new supervillain named Vector who has a lot more going for him than his piranha-shooting guns would make it appear. When things go off-course (wacky!), Gru ends up fake-adopting those three little orphan moppets as part of his plan to take down Vector and get his precious shrink ray gun. Margo, Edith, and Agnes are old-school Annie orphans, plucky and brave, three cookie-selling, Swan Lake-dancing gems who alternately like violence and unicorns. And in between Gru’s gleeful hi-jinks and his (somewhat) evil plan, they just may be the ones that teach him that some things are more important than the moon, and that most of those things are available on Earth.
The film has an excellent and amusing voice cast, including not just Carell and Brand, but Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove, Ken Jeong, Rob Huebel, Mindy Kaling, and Jack McBrayer. The animation, from Illumination Entertainment, is not at the level of Pixar (that we all so desire and that will continue to be the measuring stick of such a film), but it certainly looks fine enough, and is utilized well in the creation of fun side characters, such as the sweet Minions. DESPICABLE ME does not need to be viewed in the advertised “eye-popping Real D 3D” to be a fun experience for the family. The 3D simply adds a slight level of perception to the film, and isn’t used enough to be neither distracting nor essential.
DESPICABLE ME serves a charming mix of the best of animated family fun. It’s got enough jokes for both kids and adults to be amused, and is clever without being cloying. In between the jokes and action, there is real heart and a touching message about the nature of family, love, and doing the right thing. Who knew a supervillain could impart that message? DESPICABLE ME is, as my favorite character Agnes proclaims, “so fluffy, I’m gonna die!” It’s huggable and sweet, not despicable in the least.
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