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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Despicable Me"" anything but despicable


Despicable Me"" anything but despicable

 Any animated film that comes out the same summer as a Pixar film is bound to have trouble meeting those high standards. Illumination Entertainment, the new Universal/NBC-owned production company tries its hardest with ""Despicable Me,"" a lighthearted caper film that draws inspiration from ""The Incredibles"" and ""Monsters, Inc.,"" among others. ""Despicable Me"" is a worthy first effort for the fledgling animation studio, and while the film certainly doesn't reach Pixar's lofty levels, it's still an enjoyable family movie.

""Despicable Me"" centers around a bumbling spy named Gru (Steve Carell with a dubious Russian accent) whose glory days of villainy are behind him. Desperate to prove to the world (and his oft-disappointed mother) that he can wheel and steal with the best of them, Gru concocts a scheme involving a shrink ray, a rocket and three adorable orphan girls. With the help of his inventor sidekick Dr. Nefario (an unrecognizable Russell Brand) and thousands of chattering minions, Gru plans to steal the moon and hold it for ransom.

""Despicable Me"" keeps the action moving at such a frantic pace, it feels like the filmmakers are attempting to keep audiences from focusing on the weaker elements. In a way, it works, as audiences will be too busy laughing at the ""Spy vs. Spy"" antics of Gru and his young supervillain rival Vector (Jason Segel) to realize many of the gags are a bit lame. Gru's yellow pill-shaped minions are there at every turn for comic relief, but more often than not their incomprehensible babbling comes off as obnoxious rather than annoying. The three orphan girls are adorable, especially the diminutive Agnes, but directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud use them as the de facto emotional cues too often, and even their irrepressible cuteness can't overcome the cheesy dialogue.

Ultimately, ""Despicable Me"" vindicates itself with Carell's performance as the hardened supervillain with a heart of gold. When he begins to see the girls less as cogs in his nefarious plot and more as his family, it's predictable, but nevertheless enjoyable. His first attempt at reading the girls a bedtime story called ""Three Little Kittens"" is especially hilarious and heartfelt. Adults will empathize with Gru's financial troubles, as he struggles to secure a loan from the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) only to be denied in favor of the young and hip Vector instead. They'll also laugh at Gru's assorted attempts to break into Vector's house, a sleek white abode that might as well be called the Apple iFortress. Finally, audiences will be unable to shake the film's infectious songs from their head, as legendary hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams has done a masterful job with the score, proving you don't need Randy Newman to make a kid's film sing.

In short, ""Despicable Me"" isn't breaking down any barriers or changing the animation paradigm as Pixar (or even Dreamworks' ""Shrek"") did. However, it still holds its own as an animated feature, and can stand proud as one of the better films in this otherwise underperforming summer movie season.

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