Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Happy Monday morning, minions! It's going to be a gloomy week in these parts, with the weather liar drawing those little frowny clouds crying on every single day this week. I spent the weekend driving like a banshee from here to Minnesota and back, and most of yesterday trying to get done all the things I needed to get done long ago but still didn't quite finish. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not amused by the start of this week. I find it presumptuous and annoying.

The good news is that whilst I was away, both Justin and Ben were able to file their reviews of the week's new releases. So, without further ado, here is the first of them, Justin's take on Despicable Me.
Despicably Yours
Despicable Me is pretty good, and it isn’t from Pixar
Justin Senkbile

It isn’t hard to imagine that a super villain’s accomplishments might provide them with a bit of an ego boost. Gru (Steve Carell) certainly has a sense of pride in regards to his work; however, aside from stealing the Times Square Jumbo-Tron, he hasn’t really made much of a mark. Now he finds his fledgling reputation threatened when a fumbling young upstart, Vector (Jason Segel), causes a sensation by stealing one of the ancient pyramids.

Gru quickly hatches a plan to regain the crown of villainy. Part one: steal back a shrink ray from Vector’s headquarters. Part two: Steal the moon and secure his place in the evildoer history books. Part one proves to be the hardest, and Gru resorts to adopting three cookie-selling orphan girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) in order to infiltrate the cookie loving Vector’s lair.

Quickly, Despicable Me becomes a typical Scrooge story, where a cold heart gets melted by some almost sickeningly cute kids. Its characters also end up following the formulas drawn out by most every animated film in recent memory. The main thing that sets this movie apart from the rest is its mile-a-minute, “Looney Toons”–indebted fights and its wonderfully absurd technology. They have freeze guns, shrink-rays, robots disguised as cookies, secret labs and home security systems of mass destruction. All that’s missing are the anvils and falling pianos.
Taking on the slapstick role (think the claw machine aliens of Toy Story and the wisecracking penguins of Madagascar) are the minions, Gru’s legion of babbling, yellow, pill-shaped workers. They’re adorable, funny and completely unintelligible, easily the most memorable ingredient of the whole film.

Of course, since Gru isn’t really despicable, the whole idea of him somehow becoming good falls completely flat. In fact, he’s frightfully ordinary, with a lack of confidence (due to a disinterested mother, voiced by Julie Andrews) and an inability to get a loan from the bank. The nastiest thing we ever see him do is pop a balloon animal he’s just made for a sobbing child. One soon realizes that Despicable Me is basically the story of a bumbling eccentric learning to become a parent. Who wants to see that in 3D?

That isn’t to say that Gru’s story with his adopted daughters isn’t touching. A little bit sappy and cheap, yes, but still touching. The problem is that it pales in comparison to the fun of Gru and Vector battling it out, and, as the film progresses it ends up becoming the main focus.
Despicable Me is a bit uneven, and, not surprisingly, isn’t willing to stray too far from the usual formulas. But it does make up for most of that with its enthralling visuals and voice talents, which combine to form this movie’s own weird kind of charm. Its best moments are very good, just not as frequent as one would hope.

Grade: B-

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