By Gary Murray
Starring the voice talents of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews
Written by Ken Daurio
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Running time 95 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Rating: FULL PRICE
Summer is not the best time for film critics. The season is peppered with sequels, action flicks, high concept romantic comedies and all the other fair designed to take away cash from bored teens. It is a time when studios give up trying to attract the adults and go for the out-of-school kids. The studios shoot for the back wall, trying to make a $100 million homer with every franchise release.
Every once in a while though, something slips through the wreckage that appeals to the masses but contains more, a film that truly deserves to be crowned a blockbuster. Such is a motion picture like Despicable Me , a film that just oozes creativity and fun.
The story of Despicable Me is of Gru, an evil genius who may be past his prime. His last two capers have been to steal the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower (both from the Las Vegas attractions). His major competition in villainy is Vector (Jason Segel) who has recently stolen the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gru has a dream to put him back on top. His plan is to steal the moon. First he must steal a government shrink ray in order to get the moon down to a manageable size.
During the attempt to get the weapon, Vector upstages him and captures the recently stolen ray gun. Gru tries to get into the lair of his nemesis but he is thwarted by the stellar security system which includes a very toothy shark. Then he notices that a trio of girl orphans gain easy access to Vector's compound by selling cookies. Gru hatches an evil plan, to adopt the kids and let them get inside so he can get the weapon back into his clammy hands.
Into his life comes Margo, Edith and Agnes. The girls are happy to be adopted, wanting a loving family. Soon they realize that Gru is not the loving dentist that his resume made him out to be. It is Gru finding out that he has a heart and a capacity to love that drive the story of Despicable Me.
First off, the look of Despicable Me is a visual feast, from the outlandish ships to the futuristic cars. The artwork reminded me of some of the line drawings of cartoonist Sam Hurt and his Eye Beam creations. The computer generated images have grown by leaps and bounds in the years since early Pixar. The makers of this film have crafted true emotions out of computer characters, giving life and depth to a bunch of 1's and 0's. There are a ton of details that generate laughs from the panda bear rug to the evil bank formerly knows as Lehman Brothers. Gru has a giant group of minions, little pill-like creatures with large eyes and nothing arms. They deliver many comic touches in a very slapstick fashion, reminding one of Keystone Cops.
Carell has given the world a giant group of characters, all memorable in their comedy but with a heart behind each one. Here he takes the basic 'evil scientist' motif and gives him a glowingly black heart. Gru finds something that he never knew that existed in his world, feelings. He is given the biggest share of laughs and makes the most of this interesting role. Jason Segel does go digital toe to toe with Carell, finding the perfect moments to upstage the actor. It is a joy when these two are battling on the screen.
Russel Brand didn't do much with his character of Dr. Nefario, the evil genius behind the evil genius. The reading is nothing more than your basic voice over without any depth of character. The same goes for Julie Andrews, a great performer who is given little to do other than be stunt casting.
While both the comics Will Arnett and Kristen Wiig have unique voices, they are not given that many funny moments to shine in Despicable Me. The trio of voices that are the orphans find the right mixture of heart and humor in secondary roles that shine