Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ani-MAY-tion Month: Despicable Me (2010)

Steve Carell is the voice of Gru in this slick, enjoyable animated feature. Gru is a criminal mastermind. In fact, he likes to think of himself as the number one criminal mastermind in the whole world, despite the constant put-downs from his mother (Julie Andrews), but his status is threatened when he finds himself being overshadowed by young Vector (Jason Segel). Gru may have his minions, and a great scientist named Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), but he needs something more to get one over on his new nemesis. He needs . . . . . . . . . . children.

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, there's a lot to enjoy in Despicable Me, thanks to the fun premise. Featuring two main villains who revel in their villainy, and a whole host of minions to win over younger viewers (if you don't know what a minion looks by now then you haven't been near any kids in the past couple of years), this is something that will easily entertain most family members. The voice cast is good, with Kristen Wiig and Will Arnett joining in with the fun, and the animation is smooth and full of interesting design choices.

Having said that, the film falls into many of the same traps that almost every other animated movie falls into nowadays. There are one or two obligatory moments just to placate anyone who paid more to see it in 3D, there's a bit of music and dancing at the very end (did Shrek start that trend, or does it just feel like it?), and there is an extra sweetness to the second half that was refreshingly minimal in the first half. Okay, okay, the last part isn't that bad, especially as viewers root for the three little orphan girls that Gru takes into his home to help him with his latest nefarious scheme.

It's not the most sophisticated movie, with many of the characters (okay, mainly the minions) acting just like naughty children, but that's not the worst crime ever. The script by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio never quite hits its stride, but it gets some bonus points for the following reasons. One, the minions ARE funny, with their constant strange babblings and seeming inability to take anything seriously. Two, the scenes showing Gru adjusting to life as a parent are also very entertaining. Three, for anything that the movie lacks, it at least includes a Piranha Gun. YES!!! Sophistication be damned.

It's not the best from the many animated movies released in the last few years, but I think it's still a lot of fun. And it should certainly keep the kids happy, which is kinda the whole point.


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