Despicable Me,
directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
(Universal, 2010)

Despicable Me follows a formula that isn't hard to write. There's nothing hugely original about the story, nor has the level of computer-generated graphics made any giant leaps forward for this production.

But the movie succeeds because it has vastly entertaining characters and a sly sense of humor that works.

The movie focuses on Gru, an evil genius living in the suburbs whose villainy is on a fairly low-key scale -- freezing the people ahead of him in a fast-food line, for instance, and popping a sobbing child's balloon -- until an upstart bad guy steals the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gru, voiced with an Eastern European accent of some sort by Steve Carell, wants badly to dominate the headlines (if only to impress his hard-to-please mother), so he hatches a plan to steal the moon.

But first, he needs a shrink ray -- because hey, the moon is pretty big -- and he knows just who to rob to get one. Unfortunately, that same upstart villain, Vector (Jason Segel) wants it -- and the moon -- too. Meanwhile, the Bank of Evil, headed by Dilbert's pointy-haired boss, is tightening the pursestrings, leaving Gru in something of a financial lurch.

His cunning idea to infiltrate Vector's lair using a trio of cute, cookie-mongering orphan girls is inspired. From there, the story runs a course that rarely veers from the predictable as, as we know they must, the girls slowly melt Gru's cold, cold heart. But the journey to that inevitable end is still worth taking.

Gru is an appealing villain. The girls (voice by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) are adorable. Vector is amusingly annoying. And Gru's basement-level laboratory is cheerfully staffed by a science guy, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and an endless parade of cute, fuzzy yellow minions that scream "marketing ploy" every bit as loud as those damn Ewoks did in 1983.

Yeah, the story isn't all that original, and the conclusion is telegraphed from miles away. But this movie made me laugh -- a lot -- on a day I really needed a few chuckles, and that makes it a winner in my book.

review by
Tom Knapp

27 August 2011

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