Animation Movies, by Ajay Singh, 17 March 2011

Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Stars: Elsie Fisher, Jason Segel, Dana Gaier, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Jack McBrayer, Ken Jeong, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Mindy Kaling, Julie Andrews, Jemaine Clement

Country: USA

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Language: English

Official Site: Despicable Me Official Site

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

The concept of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s computer-animated 3D film Despicable Me, is unabashedly sentimental. Gru, voiced with a clichéd Eastern-European-Bond-villain accent by Steve Carell, is a once-great villain struggling to compete with younger, more ambitious adversaries. The film delves lightly into populist Freudian subtext in the form of Gru’s overbearing mother (voiced by Julie Andrews) whose hard-earned approbation Gru desperately craves.

 

The start of the film is deceptively promising, with its harsh hip-hop soundtrack combined with the graphic, angular quality of Gru’s figure and gestures, and the casually malicious pranks he directs at random strangers. Gru’s dark, dilapidated house in the middle of a sugary suburban neighborhood, his dead animal or internal organ shaped furniture, and his fanged, moody dog-like pet create an amusing atmosphere of over-the-top Gothicism that seems to bode well for the film. The fun, as well as the originality, unfortunately stops there. Gru’s tiny greenish-yellow “minions” are funny for about three seconds until you realize how painfully reminiscent they are of Toy Story’ s vending machine aliens, even if their squeals do not have the same eerie reverb effect.

Vector (voiced by Jason Segel), Gru’s devious new adversary, is too irritating even for comedic effect. His helplessly bizarre one-liners and odd, badly-coordinated gestures are meant to pass for deluded arrogance when really they only serve to make him seem mentally unstable. Just to give some idea of the quality of the screenplay, “Curse you, tiny toilet!” is genuinely the funniest line in the film.

However, when Gru decides to exploit a trio of nauseatingly adorable orphans to help execute his plot to shrink and kidnap the moon, is the moment when the narrative truly begins to irreversibly disintegrate all of its internal logic. There is no reason why an animated film should not have a minimum level of convincing character development and vaguely recognizable plot structure. There is also no visible reason why Gru has to evolve from balloon popping child-hater to finger-puppet-wearing male nanny when faced by a swarm of badly-behaved, googly-eyed, tutu-wearing little brats. It seems the girls are meant to melt his frozen heart just by virtue of their being “cute”, demanding, and clingy. There is nothing wrong with the concept of emotional transfiguration through the healing power of love – in theory. Unfortunately, the film makes minimal effort to actually ground Gru’s transformation in any kind of logic. Even the quality of the animation begins to deteriorate as all the characters lose whatever gestural stylization they had in the first place.

Naturally the film leads Gru to a difficult choice between his family (via fluffy pink ballet recital) and his career (via high-tech moon heist), which of course culminates in a life-threatening confrontation complete with stock phrases such as “It was the biggest mistake I ever made” and so forth.

Despicable Me is a brazen attempt at feeding off the success of better films. It has some good ideas and some mildly interesting aesthetic choices that could have made a more interesting film if its creators had actually cared about what they were doing. As it is, it might be amusing to children too young to cringe at the awful dialogue, and their parents who want to have a peaceful nap after a hard day at work.

Despicable Me [Blu-ray] [2010] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
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4.7 out of 5 stars (1525)

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Despicable Me

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Despicable Me

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

Despicable Me

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