Despicable Me (2010)
Well, folks, this one’s for the kiddies.
Despicable Me is about a supervillain named Gru who comes up with a plan to pull off the greatest crime of the century by stealing the moon. So he adopts three orphan girls to sneak inside the lab of an up-and-coming supervillain named Vector, steal his shrink ray and beat him to the punch before he winds up broke as a joke. Only problem is that Gru never expected these three little’uns to warm his cold, dead heart the way they do and he eventually has to decide what’s more important to him – being evil or being loved.
For the most part, I’m totally on board with animated movies these days. Pixar is arguably at the top of their game right now and continue to put out some of the best – if not the best – movies each year, and with How to Train Your Dragon landing itself on my Top Five of 2010 list for the time being, it’s nice to see Dreamworks following suit, too. The point is, the bar has been raised. Animated movies aren’t just for kids anymore, they’re some of the funniest, affecting and well-written ways to spend 12 bucks and two hours regardless of age or gender and they’re a hell of a lot better than most of the movies out there featuring real-life human beings.
Unfortunately, Despicable Me does not meet this standard.
Then again, I almost feel kinda bad railing on this movie because it’s not exactly aiming to please all the twenty-something, foul-mouthed movie critics in the house. On the other hand, fuck that noise. If Pixar and Dreamworks can make me laugh and cry just as hard as my seven-year-old brother, then why shouldn’t this movie?
But they must be doing something right because the producers here rangled up one hell of a cast of voice actors.
Steve Carell is good as Gru, Jason Segel is intolerable as Vector, an unrecognizable Russell Brand is great as Gru’s assisstant, Dr. Nefario, Will Arnett gets the most out of that “club sauce” voice of his as a Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) loan officer, Mr. Perkins, Julie Andrews as Gru’s Mom, Kristen Wiig as the orphan queen, Miss Hattie, Miranda Cosgrove who’s actually really good as the oldest orphan, Margo, and then there’s bit roles from Jemaine Clement, Danny McBride and Mindy Kaling to top it all off.
Yes, that is an awesome cast, but the real bummer of it all is that in the long run, it doesn’t even matter. With the exception of one comment from Brand about the impracticality of inventing a fart gun, I didn’t laugh once during this movie. Sure, I smiled here and there, but it’s one of those weird situations where it’s at once trying way too hard and not really trying at all. Just so many on-the-nose gags where someone shoots a squid onto someone head and then the guy goes, “Someone shot a squid on my head!” and we’re all supposed to laugh but I just sit there silently thinking, “Any one of these second graders could have written that.” It’s just hard to laugh when you’ve heard it all before, I guess.
And then there’s the emotional aspect of the script, and that was a mess, too. You’d think Gru or Vector would be the ones with the most evil tendencies going for them, but for some reason they pale in comparison to some of the more minor characters. First there’s the woman who runs the orphanage who puts the girls in cardboard “Boxes of Shame” and makes a point to remind them, “You know you’re never going to be adopted, right?” Well, that’s subtle. And then there’s a theme park carnie who effing shoves it one of the orphan girl’s faces when she can’t win the game at his concession stand like she just called his mother a whore. Ugh, just aggravates me when movies beat me over the head with this kind of crap. And while it does get unbelievably weepy and lovey-dovey towards the end, it’s better to be on that end of the spectrum than the one this starts out on.
I don’t know, if I had seen this as part of my second grade birthday party instead of feeling like I had just crashed some kid’s second grade birthday party, I probably would have gone absolutely bananas overDespicable Me. But with the way things are now, I didn’t find a whole lot worth enjoying not being anywhere near the target audience. All the same, there were a lot of parents in the crowd who seemed to be laughing right along with the kids, and I don’t know if that’s just ’cause parents don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to go to the movies, but whatever, I seemed to be in the minority. It’s not very original, it’s not very funny either, but it’s got sweetness to spare and your kids’ friends will be talking for years about how it was “The Best Second Grade Birthday Party EVER!!!”
Oh, and even though I just saw it good old fashioned 2-D, I’m gonna go ahead and recommend you don’t waste your money on the hi-tech Roy Orbison shades this time around. Just more gimmicky crap that looks like it’s about to stab you in the eye or fool you into thinking you’re on a roller coaster. Just go to Six Flags and stare at the tip of a pencil for a while. Trust me, it’s a freakin’ rush.