Sunday, July 18, 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Film Credits
Release Date: July 9, 2010
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Screenwriter: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove, Jack McBrayer, Mindy Kaling, Jemaine Clement, Julie Andrews
Genre: Animation, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG (for rude humor and mild action)
Official Website:

The Dastardly Evil Plot
Imagine if you will, a beautiful neighborhood filled with colorful homes and joyful families where people live their daily lives in that typical happy Hollywood family style. Now imagine that in the middle of all this perfection is a dark, cobwebbed house with a dark cloud hanging over it and a dead lawn. This is the home of Gru, (Steve Carell) a lanky, large headed and long-nosed villain who has plans to become the greatest villain of all time by stealing the Moon. (Yes, I said the moon, crazy huh?) With the help of his minions, Gru develops a plan that will allow him to accomplish this plot which will finally boost him up on a pedestal of sheer villainy that no evil-doer will ever be able to master for years to come.
But wait, what’s this? A new villain by the name of Vector has stolen an Egyptian Pyramid and now claims the he will steal the moon and take Gru’s triumph as greatest villain of all time. Through a series of trials and tribulations, Gru attempts to put a stop to this new-comer as his whiney, teenager-ish ways. But our devilish fiend runs into three little Orphaned girls that may just increased the size of Gru’s heart and change him forever. (Oh, crap, did I just give away the entire film? Sorry!)

My Diabolically Sinister Opinion
There seems to be a huge gap between a Pixar animated film and everyone else. Every animation studio tries so hard to meet the animation and story-telling quality of Pixar but never quite gets there. Despicable Me runs into this same little problem where it doesn’t quite meet the standards that animated feature films have been trying to achieve ever since Pixar took over the world as the animation masters. While some aspects of Despicable Me are very amusing and fun to watch, my overall reaction to the film was that it tried a little too hard.

The Good
The premise of the film’s story is great; two villains go at it tooth and nail and try to become a greatest villain of all time, but are hindered by their immature and childish ways. It almost has a hint of the old Merry Melodies “Roadrunner and Coyote” cartoons, where Gru’s constant attempts at breaking an entering are foiled by Vector’s ridiculously hilarious booby traps.

Both Vector and Gru seemed compelled to be villains due to their parents. Gru’s mother always seemed to be disappointed in his ambitions which he constantly seem to dwell on, where as Vector was too oblivious too notice his father’s disapproval. It’s obvious that of the two, Gru was the more intelligent villain, but Gru’s weakness was his mother and it got in the way of everything he did. Behind that dark and gothic exterior was a tormented little boy whose developing years was met by a disapproving and unimpressed mother, (played by the famous Julie Andrews) and Gru’s way of coping with this was his villainous demeanor.

Screenwriters Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio gave the script an added bonus with the three orphan girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes who eventually tug at the Gru’s heart strings. This orphan trio provides a witty addition to the film giving us the intelligent and more academic child, the pain in the butt child, and the “cute-as-can-be” child, all of which have lovable and despicable characteristics. But this girly trifecta teaches Gru that the desire to be famous should never overshadow the desire to love, which was something he lacked as a boy.

The plot progression was good, but the film’s highlights were the fantastic performance by Steve Carell whose talents as a voice actor are becoming more and more well known. But I was completely shocked by the fact that Russell Brand (forgetting Sarah Marshall, Bedtime Stories) voiced the slow moving assistant of Gru. I think I’ve become a fan of Brand’s potential as an actor with this film! And of course, the lone actor Pierre Coffin’s performance all the minions was absolutely brilliant.

The Bad
I understand that this is a kid’s movie and a lot of what we may like in the more adult films will not be within a family animated film such as this, but I did wonder if the movie could have given us a little less depth and a little more of the old cartoon humor.

The film’s overdose in clever one-liners and emotional draining scenes left me a little worn out. Even with my appeal to the heart tugging relationship Gru had with his mother, the bulk of the film felt a little overdone in the emotional department.

The trailers (or trailer, singular) that I had seen had led me to believe this film was going to be a truly despicable film, meaning the majority of laughter would come from Gru’s antics and “despicable” behavior. But Gru came off as more of a pathetic villain whose cleverness came out only in the first five to ten minutes. I understand the need for sentimentality and having some type of moral compass to direct the film for children, but I truly was hoping for a story that was based around Gru’s constant despicable errands that displayed within its trailer. Instead, we are presented with a sappy, moralistic sentimentality driven story that drags the film way down. I’m sure parents and kids will love it for that very reason, but not I. I guess that will teach me to have pre-conceived notions about a film’s story huh?

For reasons that I cannot explain, I felt the entire film lingered on and on with nothing to grab onto. The story had all of its formulaic components, the bad guy, the good guy, the twist, the humor, etc etc, but it didn’t seem to work as well as it could have. This probably has to do with Director’s Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin not taken full advantage of the story they were given. I wanted Gru to be much more sinister and intelligent than he was, but the writers and directors (or maybe Universal Studios decided to be dumb and make this very bad decision that pinned the movie makers in a corner) decided to go a different route that did not suit the film’s premise.

My Despicable Conclusion
With the mixture of overdone emotion and cleverness, the film came off as a failed attempt at bringing in all ages; there seemed to be a very unbalanced level of humor and emotion that did not work for me. And with this film’s rating of PG for rude humor and mild action, I was hoping for something a little more mature and fun in it’s overall content and story.

Rating: 6 out of 10


  1. I disagree. I think that the bumbling, neurotic Gru was just right for this movie. If a real super-villain is what you're going for, then among other things Gru himself should have looked less ridicuous. This was supposed to be funny and sentimental.

  2. Overall, I think I agree with you, Jimmy. I expected a movie different from all others - clever and sinister with a light-hearted, humorous twist. Instead, it was the warmed-over same old, same old. Mostly, I felt that the movie was predictable. The girls sure were awfully cute, though! And kudos to Steve Carrell and Julie Andrews.