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July 14, 2010

Review: Despicable Me

It's nice when an animated film can make both children and adults laugh out loud, while offering a coherent and enjoyable plot that either can age group can enjoy. Correction, it's nice when one finds this in an animated film not made by Disney/Pixar. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of the majority of Pixar's offerings over the past few years. In my eyes, they've changed how animated films are made and received. However, it's important to remember they don't own a monopoly over the genre (though they do dominated the Best Animated Feature Oscar category, and probably will for a long time). I don't rush out to see every animated film that hits theaters, though most of them appear enjoyable. When I do take a chance on such a film, it's nice to find something really worth it.

When going to see "Despicable Me" I didn't know what to expect, as is often the case with animated features as of late. Their trailers contain an extremely basic plot summary, colorful characters and a few funny one-liners. This is enough to attract the attention of young children and their parents, but someone in between those two groups needs better incentive to shell out the $10 for a movie these days. I even remember seeing a teaser trailer for it last summer sometime, but had no idea what the movie was about and was not very interested. I must say that I have no regrets with my decision. Gru, voiced by Steve Carell ("The Office," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") is a villain. A basic description, yes, but it's enough. He has an old scientist who helps him develop high-tech weapons and vehicles, an army of minions and he routinely makes large-scale thefts in order to make a big splash in the news. The funny thing about this is that Gru lives in a very suspicious house in the middle of the suburbs. It's suggested that Gru's neighbors know exactly what he does, and that he can't be very hard to find, if the authorities wanted. Also, his minions are a strange yet comical creature, more like little alien workers who are upbeat and dedicated to his work. When a young up-and-coming villain named Vector steals an Egyptian pyramid, Gru feels threatened and begins to plan his dream caper: stealing the moon. In order to get the right device from Vector, Gru decides to adopt three young orphan girls so they may infiltrate Vector's fortress. Gru, who never apologizes for his mean and surly demeanor, begins to see a soft spot he never knew he had as he gets closer with the girls who see a him as a fatherly figure, despite it being extremely uncharacteristic of him. His plans to uphold his reputation and his work conflict with the new family he has created.

Right, so the plot is fresh and funny in itself. The young girls are very lovable to the audience, and and who doesn't like seeing a mean character turn good? It's a child movie staple. Adult jokes are thrown in enough, but not too much, which I think really makes a good animated film. Being able to appeal to all demographics is important when ticket prices and bad movies keep infecting the industry. "Despicable Me" opened last Friday and earned the number one spot in the box office this past weekend, beating out the likes of "Toy Story 3" (which has been out for a few weeks already) and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." Numbers like that aren't the easiest to achieve, especially when it's summer and families have better things to do than go to the movies. And, although you can't tell, there are voices provided by Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnet, Kristen Wiig and, believe it or not, Julie Andrews.

You can also see "Despicable Me" in 3D. Although I continue to speak out against the over-use of 3D technology in films these days, animated films are really where it fits the best. There are a few extra scenes during the credits featuring Gru's minions having some fun with the 3D audience. I can tell this would be an enjoyable 3D experience, as it is used at the right times. A sequel is already being planned, which sits just fine with me. Gru's new family is really established in this film and all you would have to do is throw in a new competing villain to make a sequel work. Honestly, I don't think I got enough from the minions and I'd like to see more.

"It's so fluffy I'm gonna DIE!"


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