Despicable Me

Tuesday Morning review

Despicable Me
2010 PG 95 minutes

Full disclosure: Inside my heart of stone and this nearly six decade old body (!) lurks a youngster with wide eyes and the capacity for wonder. Yes, I am a kid at heart. I enjoy family movies and love animations. That said:

I wanted to like this movie. I think Steve Carell is very talented. He makes me laugh every time in “The Office”.
He took a somewhat more serious turn in Little Miss Sunshine, which I thought was quite good and under-rated. Anchorman was hysterical.

So I am predisposed to like him.

Usually when I enjoy an actor’s work I also enjoy them in a cartoon voice-over role. Animators now imbue the characters with the facial expressions and movements of the person voicing them. See “Donkey” in any Shrek and you are seeing Eddie Murphy in cartoon form.

They missed the mark with Carell and his character “Gru” in Despicable Me.

Part of the fault is Carell’s choice of accent. The ersatz Russian falls flat in minutes, grates shortly thereafter and detracts from what could have been been a pretty good role. It made it impossible for the animation team to give Gru much of Carrell, which is a shame.

The rest of the fault lies with the story, the animation and the over all slap-dash, cheap, grind-em out feel of the movie.

Shrek being the model for an animated film that worked on several levels gives us adults permission to laugh at the sly innuendos, sometimes even over the top in a “Kids” film. The references to pop culture and other movies are put in there to keep Mom and Dad awake. It’s OK, because the youngsters don’t get it, right?

Despicable Me tries. Fails. A quick scene where Gru discovers one of the kids toys (A Barbie head?) in his bed is meant the emulate the horse’s head in The Godfather. Swing and a miss.

Despicable Me is not a bad film. It’s just not very good. I am sure seeing it in a theater with 3D effects would probably step up it’s appeal somewhat but is that just lipstick on Porky?

Quite possibly I am not the target audience for the movie. It received good reviews and did decent box office. But I can’t help but feel that some element was missing.

Illumination Entertainment prides itself on “strict cost controls” and in a recent interview with the New York Times, studio head Christopher Meledandri said: “Very few management layers, clear decision-making, shortening the length of time you spend developing a movie — it can be done.” Hiring vocal talent with less star power and keeping investment in animation technology to a minimum also keep his costs down.

Sorry Mr Meledandri. It shows on the screen.

Meledandri helmed the Ice Age movies and the charming “Scrat” features Gone Nutty and No Time for Nuts but worked with much larger budgets and much larger talents. It also shows on the screen.


is it just me or does the Evil Scientist side-kick Dr Nefario

Sort of resemble Professor Farnsworth from Futurama?


Does villain “Vector”

look like…

Maybe it’s just me.


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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