Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Release Date: July 9th, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin Actors: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Danny McBride
t one point during the film, supervillain Gru reads a puppet book to three children. Disgusted at the simplicity and ridiculousness of the story, Gru grumbles, “A 2-year-old could have written this.” It’s a statement that truly sums up the entirety of “Despicable Me,” a movie so bogged down by vapid clichés, overused ideas, and excruciating immaturity that anyone above such infantilism will be driven to the verge of eye-gouging delirium. Not a laugh exists for anyone who has outgrown stale flatulence jokes and uninspired physical jabs. The premise of evildoers trying to top each other’s feats of mischief is admittedly interesting, but it’s an idea that receives no build or attention after the first few minutes. The character designs are generally unappealing and the squeaking yellow Tic Tacs that should provide much of the comedy fall flat in both their clowning and abuse of one another. If it’s juvenile or tiresome, it’s in this movie. If it’s funny or entertaining, it’s not.
Diabolical thief Gru (Steve Carell) has faced rejection and disapproval throughout most of his childhood and villainous career. Stemming from the desire to make his mother proud, Gru attempts to become the most successfully devious criminal mastermind the world has ever seen (his most esteemed heist to date being that of the Times Square Jumbotron TV). In order to top the recent theft of the Pyramid of Giza by his arch-rival Vector (Jason Segel), Gru plots to steal the moon – but must first retrieve a top-secret Shrink Ray from his nemesis’ heavily-guarded lair. Having no luck in cracking Vector’s high-tech security systems, Gru adopts three orphaned girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes, in an insidious plan to infiltrate his target’s fortress. The strong-willed children quickly turn his world upside down when they find a way into his underground lab, where Gru soon realizes they’ve also found a way into his heart.
“Despicable Me” is the second mainstream film of the year to feature absolutely no conflict. Once again, a few amusing characters are developed, locations are established, and a hint of a plot is formed. But the antagonist, in the form of nerdy supervillain Vector, rarely presents even a hindrance for Gru, leaving the unsuccessfully evil genius to brood over abandoning his goals for three little orphans. His sole purpose is a never-ending struggle to be the least lame villain on the planet, especially in the eyes of the monstrous banker Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett). But in the privacy of his own home, Gru sports the most agonizingly lame jokes, sight gags, minions, and accent imaginable. It’s a shame that Miss Hattie’s “Box of Shame” is more cruel and unusual than anything Gru can offer up.
Should he steal the moon or attend a ballet recital? With his shrink ray gun, army of faithful yellow workers, trusty scientist partner Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and a seemingly endless supply of advanced gadgetry, firepower, and flying machines, achieving both shouldn’t be a problem. It’s odd that he needs money from the bank when he can have anything he wants built from scratch, especially as he operates a vast laboratory of robots and mechanical devices. Gru splits his time trying to fulfill childhood dreams, making his mother proud, and becoming the parent he wished he could have had, never really focusing on burglarizing the celestial satellite. It’s no wonder the film doesn’t concentrate much on presenting an intelligent story, instead setting up individual jokes or displaying character designs intended to amuse without actually doing anything funny.
Although the conclusion is fitting, it’s too little too late (and too slow), leaving audiences with a generic plot, indistinguishable supporting roles (the three adopted girls as well as the minions), an insincere rival, and undeveloped possibilities. Imagine what might have happened in “Despicable Me” if it were pioneered by Pixar. And also realize that it would take a much more spectacular idea than this to compete with “Toy Story 3,” released two weeks earlier.
– The Massie Twins