Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Written by: Ken Daurio, Sergio Pablos, Cinco Paul
Starring: Steve Carrel, Russel Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Kristen Wigg
Maybe our generation is spoiled. Given Pixar just eleven-peated at the box office and in reviews with the latest Toy Story installment, it seems like audiences can’t stomach any other brand of animation. It’s nearly impossible to read a review of an animated movie (Pixar or not) that doesn’t bring up the success the company has with blending sentiment, humor and cinematic beauty into its layers of computer generated imagination. So when any other work outside of Pixar comes out with one-note characters, cheesy karaoke or dance scenes, celebrity voice actors and the promise of a heightened 3D experience, it’s hard not to find it… despicable.
With Despicable Me, it seems no different. There’s the corny villain, the cute non-talking sidekick character(s) and the ‘everybody dances’ scene in the end because filmmakers couldn’t think any other clever, satisfying or touching way to end the story they just told for two hours. But luckily it is mildly saved in mild sentiment, mild story and mild humor of Steve Carrel.
Carrel’s character, Gru, is a seasoned villain who enjoys a gas guzzling blimp car, piranha teethed puppy, making children cry and other acts of evil which stroke his ego as the one of the world’s most evil villains. When a new villain named Vector (Segel) comes along and pulls off a grand heist of a pyramid, Gru gets a little jealous. Add ragging from his mother and the Bank of Evil whom he cannot receive financing from for his redemption project, stealing the moon.
Of course stealing the moon is only possible with a shrinking gun, obviously, which must be stolen from North Korea. But Vector has already beaten Gru to the punch and has the gun sitting safely at his home which can only be penetrated by orphaned girls selling Coco-Nutties. Gru’s solution: adoption. Soon the goop heart of Gru’s turns gold and conflicts his plans for restoring his place on the mantelpiece of malevolence.
Pretend its Pixar’s The Incredibles and Up but replace heroes with villains and talking dogs with cheese ball looking minions. Enter 3D.
There are some other ups to the film, mostly with Steve Carrel’s very noticeable and well characterized Gru, who mixes Eastern European accents to sound like an off-animated Borat. The rest of the celebrity voices are completely unrecognizable or unnecessary unless you are counting 30 Rock’s Jack McBryer a celebrity. There is a crack here and there about rednecks on vacation, killing children, bits with minions and other nonsense that will get a great laugh or two out of the audience, but for the most part it is like your (hopefully!) recycled 3D glasses, used before in a better Pixar film, tossed away in a card board box and dumbed down for reuse.
But even second hand Pixar material can be entertaining and heartfelt enough to forgive a few plot holes.