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Despicable Me Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Despicable Me is what I would consider a great animated film—if only Pixar didn’t exist. It’s fun and heartwarming, but the Pixar magic isn’t quite there. The arc is completely predictable, and the laughs are fewer and far between than any Pixar film. I think the bar for animation has been set so high in recent years that Despicable Me falls a little short. But it certainly had its moments and is a step up from your average, non-Pixar animated film.

Gru (voice of Steve Carell) is the biggest, baddest villain around. His accomplishments include stealing the Times Square Jumbotron and the Las Vegas versions of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty. But a young upstart, Vector (voice of Jason Segel), is threatening Gru’s place at the top with his brilliant Pyramids of Giza heist. Gru decides the only way to reclaim his title is by stealing the moon. His plan involves adopting a trio of little girls who sell Vector cookies, stealing his rival’s “shrink ray,” and building a rocket to take him to the moon. But something unexpected happens along the way—he discovers his fatherly instinct, which threatens his project. Soon, he’s forced to make a choice—settle down and be a good father or continue his quest to take over the world.

The plot is silly, obviously, but this really is a children’s movie. Very few jokes have the sort of universal appeal that one gets from the absolute best family films. Gru’s little yellow helpers are very cute and quite funny, but more of the gags involve crashing into things or funny noises than genuine cleverness. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but being outside the target demo, I had a hard time completely getting into it.

There are a few moments, however, when “Despicable Me” threatens to activate the tear ducts. At the very least, they will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face. Gru and his girls have a very untraditional family, but it works for them. It takes them a while to work out the kinks, but once they all embrace one another, the film becomes quite touching.

The voice work is solid, if unspectacular. None of the actors overshadows his or her character, but none of them stands out either. And in terms of animation, it occasionally feels amateurish. It certainly doesn’t have the clear, crisp look of a Pixar film, or even most Dreamworks films. Universal isn’t known for its animation, but after this film’s success, it might have a chance to become a third major studio. If so, I’m afraid they’ll need to work on their product a little. That being said, I didn’t see the film in 3-D, but from what I’ve read, they do a good job incorporating that into the picture.

“Despicable Me” doesn’t represent the apex of animation this year, but it’s better than many live-action films this summer. It does what every family film should do—entertain the little ones. For adults, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s enough here, however, to give it a solid recommendation. The way it transforms its cruel lead character into a loving family man is sweet, endearing, and definitely worthy of ninety minutes of your time.

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