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Rapid Review: Despicable Me

July 14, 2010


Despicable Me is the first appropriate and effective use of 3D I’ve seen in a movie.  Usually, the 3D experience is a late edition in editing, or marginally used with limited results.  In Despicable Me, 3D finally has a genre where its technology is a natural fit – the animated pratfall comedy. 

Despicable Me is one of the most amusing and entertaining examples of a slapstick physical comedy in recent years, but with a heart and script to back it up. Charlie Chaplin would be proud.  There are stunts, explosions and even stupendous farting such that only a truly animated character is equipped to endure.  Thank goodness we have Gru and his minions on hand.

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is an aging super-villain whose schemes often go awry.  He’s basically the used car salesman of the superhero universe – constantly building up your expectations, but never delivering the goods.  His plan to get back on top is to steal a shrink ray that will allow him to reduce the moon to pocket size – perfect for stealing.  His primary foil in the movie is Vector (Jason Segel) – a nerdy, orange-sherbet-track- suit- wearing youngster who is out to steal Gru’s thunder (and earn the rank of Greatest Villain).

Jason Segel as Vector

Despicable Me could have chosen to focus on the superhero angle, which has been done to death in recent years, but, pleasantly,  its focus is not on the chase and the “big bang”, but on the simple complexities of running an evil empire.  It’s tough to hatch a dastardly plan, deal with a mother you can never impress, be an adoptive parent and STILL find time to be the baddest baddie in town.  I was thrilled to find that in Gru’s universe, even villains have to apply for a bank loan to build their super rockets.  It’s little touches like these that make the movie rise above simple kiddie fare.

Despicable Me is mostly about the joys to be found in the simplest of sight gags.  It’s an artform that many animated films don’t spend the time and effort to do well.  It works here – in large part to the fun, simplistic script and fine voice acting by Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand and even Julie Andrews.  It’s fun to listen to the kids giggle and gasp at the wonder on screen.  It’s not as moving and memorable as this summer’s Toy Story 3, but it’s more than worth the extra few bucks to see it in 3D.

Gru contemplating his next move

Gru’s minions alone are worth the price of admission.  They babble incoherently and often are on the receiving end of a dazzling array of technological mishaps.  It’s hard not to smile when they are onscreen.  Let’s give these guys a sequel already.

So – grab a kid or two (or, like Gru, borrow a couple) and head to the theaters.  If you don’t, Gru might hit you with his freeze ray.

Overall Grade: A –

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