Film Review – Despicable Me

Despicable Me

Gru is a super villain living in suburbia. He has thousands of little yellow minions, an evil scientist in his paid employ, and an upstart nemesis who steals his thunder by stealing the Great Pyramid.

He comes up with an audacious plan, but when his nemesis, Vector steals the shrink ray gun that he needs to pull off his spectacular heist, he adopts three little girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes to act as cookie-selling decoys.

Despicable Me uses caricature animation seen in Jimmy Neutron and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which makes it instantly endearing. While it’s pedigree is pretty shabby (the writers from Horton Hears a Who and The Santa Clause 2), the neat super villain versus super villain tale is elevated by great vocal talent, charming animation and minions. Lots of lots of minions.

Surprisingly the 3D is pretty uneventful – there’s a fantastic rollercoaster sequence midway through the flick, but it doesn’t really “pop”. Indeed the best use of 3D is in the end credits, where the minions reach out into the audience. I couldn’t find whether it was originally animated in 3D or not, but it felt very much like the recently 3D rebooted Toy Story 1 & 2.

The comparisons to Pixar’s finest don’t end there. The minions are very similar in tone to the little green aliens of Toy Story, although there’s nothing wrong with that. They talk in a Sims-style language, with the odd bit of English thrown in and are exactly as cute as the trailer would have you believe. There are plenty of sight gags thrown in, and unlike the aliens from Toy Story; these guys do have individual personalities. They are an instant hook that draws the audience into accepting and loving Gru’s world.

Of the main cast, Carell is excellent as Gru, and Julie Andrews is sadly under-used as his mother. (More of her please, in the sequel). Russell Brand is decidedly deep voiced for Dr Nefario, while Jason Segel voices Vector in an appropriately geeky fashion. The children are not overly cutesy, and fall into 3 known tropes – geeky girl Margo (voiced by iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove), tomboy girl and the cute little one. The cutesy nature of little Agnes is offset by her superb reaction to a toy unicorn she sees at the funfair. For all the broad brush strokes of the girls’ characterisation, there’s an immediately recognisable truth in that one moment.

It’s all pretty light-hearted stuff that moves from one scene to another in a pleasant fashion. The children are never really in peril, the denouement focuses mainly on Vector’s pratfalls, and it’s all rounded off at the end with a musical number.

Children will absolutely adore it, although I can’t help but wish there had been a more evil villain somewhere in the flick. There are some fantastic sight gags and great jokes for the parents too, my favourite being the sign that said “Bank of Evil – Formerly Lehman Brothers”. Ultimately it’s a slight tale, but a very pretty and very entertaining one.

Despicable Me is released in the UK on October 15th.

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on September 21, 2010.

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