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Review: Despicable Me

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In a time where every studio is developing their own number of 3D animated movies, Despicable Me turns out to be one of the better ones. It walks to a different beat from the Pixar and DreamWorks Animation films but doesn't reach into truly great territory like Toy Story 3 does. But, as a summertime family movie, it's good entertainment for little kids and grown adults.

Steve Carell provides the eastern European dialect of Gru, a middle-aged supervillain that faces the make or break point of his life. Gru's plans for his greatest villainous act, to shrink down the moon and steal it from the sky, but he faces his own personal adversary with the likes of a younger, eager supervillain named Vector (voice of Jason Segal.) Vector steals the shrink ray from Gru, forcing him to come up with a secondary plan to steal back the weapon but it requires the inadvertant help of three young orphan girls. Gru thinks that he can adopt the trio and use them to get his shrink ray gun back and that will be it but he's never faced the diabolical machinations of a three-act four quadrant screenplay, has he?

It's a relief to not hear a half-dozen popular pop songs blazing over the soundtrack for Despicable Me, an easy road that the Shrek crew have fallen into to try and appeal to two of their quadrants. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and their mostly French team of animators aptly mix the funny kids jokes with subtler adult jokes, such as the former identity of the Bank of Evil that Gru visits. While Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul's script could have probably used the help of a Pixar ghostwriter to tighten up some of the film's emotional moments, there is surprising heart felt in several of the scenes where Gru starts to bond with his adopted daughters. The film's true comedy machine are the numerous, nearly identical yellow minions of Gru's, two-foot tall two and one-eyed beings that talk like they're filled with helium. They're all throughout Despicable Me's running time and are often used for gags, usually at the expense of the particular minion on-screen at the time.

The animation is rich and full of color, and the 3D effect is just as good here as it was in How to Train My Dragon. There's nothing too scary or surprising in the movie, which makes Despicable Me a little too safe. If Coffin and Renaud had been given the freedom to push it a little closer to the edge Despicable Me could have been more subvert and blacker with its comedy but they could easily lose the chance to grab a wider audience. I can understand the pressure that producer Chris Meledandri felt on his first film for Illumination Entertainment and to not rock the boat too much for Universal. Maybe with Despicable Me 2 they can go a little further out on the edge with the comedy and drama.

Take your kids to see Despicable Me and don't worry about being bored. You'll have as good as time as the youngsters, but if you're a softie watch out for the three cats bedtime story scene.

Review Score: 70 / 100

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