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Catching Up on 2010: Josh Reviews Despicable Me

January 18th, 2011

Despicable Me seemed like a movie that I’d really dig.  It’s an animated film about dueling super-villains, which is a great hook, and it features a spectacular voice cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, and more.

Boy, what a disappointment!

First of all, despite what the trailers indicated, the film isn’t about dueling super-villains at all.  Jason Segel’s character Vector, who is presented in the trailer and in the opening scenes of the film as a rival for Steve Carell’s villain Gru, hardly factors into the story at all until the very end.  Instead, the plot of the film really focuses on Gru’s adopting three cute little girls (as part of one of his dastardly plans), but instead of manipulating them he grows fond of the girls and discovers that he can be a great dad.


Boy oh boy, this film failed on pretty much every level for me.  It’s more interested in cutesy-moments (whether featuring the three oh-so-cute little girls or the oh-so-adorable little yellow “minions” that work for Gru) than actual jokes.  There are a few funny moments, but they’re few and far between.

The plot, as it were, is very thin.  The idea that Gru could adopt those three girls is more ludicrous than any of the super-villain hi-jinks in the film.  There are a few perfunctory scenes with the girls in their orphanage, run by a cruel woman named Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig), which are clearly only in the film to minimize the horror of the idea of this bizarre man being allowed to adopt three innocent little girls.  (“Hey, at least he’s not as bad as SHE is,” we’re supposed to think!)  Then the film attempts to mine some drama from Vector kidnapping the girls at the end, but there’s no tension because he’s clearly no match for Gru.  After the opening scenes, the film has tried to mine laughs from Vector being presented as a total doofus.

The film doesn’t even really bother to explore the premise that it sets up — a world where there are apparently no super-heroes and super-villains are allowed to operate with impunity.  Where are the heroes?  How does society react to the free reign these villains apparently have?  Are there other villains out there besides Gru and Vector?  How did Gru create his minions?  I could go on and on.  Compare this to the fully-relized universe created in Pixar’s super-hero film, The Incredibles.  Not only did that movie feature three-dimensional characters and a compelling story-line, but it also managed to really explore the world being presented.  We learned about the effect that the heroes had on the public, and the public’s reaction to that.  We even learned where all the super-heroes got their cool costumes!!  That’s a night-and-day difference from Despicable Me.

This is a fine kids movie.  As kids movies go, I suspect it’s far more entertaining than much of what else is out there.  But for anyone over the age of thirteen, this is a let-down.  Bummer.

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