Friday, January 7, 2011

Despicable Me (2010)

Voices of Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Family/ Comedy
Rated PG


Super Criminal Gru, seeks to become the greatest villain of all time by stealing the moon. He concocts a rather complex plan involving adopted three orphan girls in order to steal the necessary equipment from his nemesis, Vector, who has upstaged him at every turn. However, things go awry when Gru begins to bond with his new family.


Gru has a lot of Steve Carrell’s usual mannerisms his performance. While he does try to disguise it with a Hollywood foreign accent, a lot of elements he is known for come to the surface. When he talked about getting older or having to lay off some of his walking cheese puff minions, I really felt like I was watching an episode of “The Office”. This wasn’t necessary a bad thing, it was just something I found a little distracting from the actual story. I can understand that with this being Illumination Animation’s first feature film, that they tried to capitalize on as much star power as they could afford.

On the other end of the casting spectrum we have Julie Andrews as Gru’s mother who makes only a few guttural noises in her limited amount of screen time. I just couldn’t help but think what a waste of potential that was. They managed to get Mary Poppins herself to be in their children’s movie, and did absolutely nothing with her. All the while I just couldn’t help but think of how ironic it would be if instead they had cast her as the intimidating mistress who runs the orphanage. I just think it would have been fun to cast against type like that.

One of the things that are hard to understand about this movie is the setting. Our two leads, Gru and Vector are supervillains who steal landmarks Carmen Sandiego style, and are both financed by an evil bank and are part of society of bad guys. There don’t seem to be any superheroes or secret agents to oppose these threats. The people we do see react don’t really seem to do anything. This is rather unfortunate as one of the movie’s funnier moments was at the beginning when we see the nations of the world going ludicrous precautions to safeguard their landmarks. I kind of wish there had been more scenes like this.

It is a bit hard to understand this setting when there really have any “rules” laid out. There’s a bit of contrived coincidence that the plot hinges on, were Gru builds a rocketship out of scrap parts to fly to the moon, so that he can steal it with his shrink ray. It just so happens that Gru can only launch his rocket on the same day as his new daughter’s dance recital. If you can build a rocket out of spare parts and use it to fly to the moon, and zap it with a shrink ray to hold it for ransom, then I’m sure you can launch on a day when you aren’t otherwise committed. The senile Dr. Nefario, has suddenly regained lucidity to exposit this bit, delivers this plot point. I don’t understand who this guy is that he can tell Gru what to do. Isn’t it Gru’s plan after all? Besides, the good doctor didn’t speak up that we know of during any of Gru’s other failings, so why now all of the sudden? There is no reason, other than because the plot depends upon it.

The animation is excellent. I am eager to see what comes out of Illumination Animation’s following films. The plot is contrived, and the situations with the kids fairly predictable. However, it is peppered with some good comedic moments but they are rather few and far between.

Final Score:

3 out of 5. Commonplace.

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