Despicable Me (Contains Spoilers)

Although I’m not particularly proud of the fact that I wound up seeing Despicable Me before I’m able to go and see The Social Network or even the re-release of Back To The Future, I’m ok with the fact that I ended up seeing Despicable Me mostly because of the fact that from the trailers and the hype it’s been getting it looked like it would be at least a semi-decent animated comedy film. Perhaps not quite of the standards of Shrek or Kung-Fu Panda or anything like that, but entertaining enough to actually be worth killing time on. And that’s what it turned out to be – a semi-decent animated comedy that was perhaps actually worth killing time on.

I’ll be the first to admit that it probably wasn’t my film of choice to begin with, and I wouldn’t have been kicking myself if I had wound up missing it at the cinema, but it turns out that Steve Carell actually does a pretty good job on voice acting as well as physical comedy too, thusly legitimising him as a pretty well rounded actor. Although, that could also have been said after watching Dan In Real Life a few weeks ago as well… Anyway, the point is that although he’d deliberately putting on an accent in this, he does bring a little bit of his own comedy wonder to the character of Gru, the evil genius out to prove that he’s still the best there is at what he does – being a total bastard. Even in the first 5 minutes of the film, Gru manages to cheer up a little kid, put a smile on his face and make him all happy just to deliberately bring him down again! Clearly, it had to be established upon the first point of seeing Gru that he had to be a complete arse and that was very much achieved.

Essentially, what I liked about Despicable Me was the fact that you have to sympathise with a guy who is deliberately out to make people’s lives a bit of a misery. Gru IS the evil genius that creates heroes out of nothing, and yet no heroes try to stop him, so he’s free to rain down his evilness on anyone and anything. But obviously, because this is a kid’s film, it couldn’t quite take that sinister tone too far and so they had to introduce a more human side to him – one of a kid with hopes and dreams, of which his mother completely shot down as nonsense. Thus, this creates an association with Gru, and he’s not such a bad guy anymore – just someone who USED to be evil who now has lots of cool gadgets and millions of minions.

A little thing that bugged me about part of the story of Despicable Me is the fact that his Minions aren’t really explained, more just taken as granted that they’re there. Perhaps it’s me wanting more of a cohesive reason behind small things like that in the films I see, and forgetting that kids generally tend to take most things as a given and not question these things, but I would have liked to have known how Gru got all his little minions that, strangely enough, resemble the Tic-tac men painted yellow. This, however, was not given but what we get instead is a tool of such great comic relief that you find yourself not caring anymore. Ok, they’re silly, they’re stupid, and they’re basically yellow Tic-tac-shaped Oompa Loopmas, but I think you’d have to be a pretty straight-faced critic to not have a little giggle when one of them manages to drink and anti-gravity serum and floats out a window, only to crop up at ridiculous times later on. Or even when one gets cracked and shaken and starts glowing like a glow stick. They’re the kind of bizarre humour that contrasts the kind of outright, slightly predictable humour of some of the other characters.

On that point, it has to be said that I’m probably not one of Russell Brand’s biggest fans. In fact, earlier in his career I found him to be pretty irritating and generally kind of thick, and wondered what the appeal of him was. However, in recent years he has started to show a bit more of a genuine appeal as a comedy actor in things like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek (ok, he’s basically playing himself in those films, but at least he can play a character and read a script now!), and I think his role as the doddery old Dr. Nefario (the ‘M’ to Gru’s ‘Bond’, to draw a total parallel) was pretty genius. I think it’s mostly his delivery of the lines that his appeal lies in, which just shows that when you get rid of the stupid skin-tight jeans, guyliner and lady-killing hair, he CAN still deliver a line very well.

The basic plot of Despicable Me is that the “evil” Gru needs to re-capture a shrink ray from a rival evil genius Vector (Jason Segel) so that he can steal the Moon. But, in order to do this, his plan involves adopting three young girls from an orphanage to infiltrate his nemesis’ lair and steal it for him. But in the process of doing so, Gru finds that having a family is better than being feared, and learns alot from the growing love they have between them (que sobs and violins). Ok, a pretty predictable plot if there was one, but for a kids film its one that works pretty well.  There’s a dynamic amongst kids films recently of sympathising with unlikely characters (again, Shrek is a good example), and more and more developers of animated films for “kidults” are playing off of this. Not that this is a bad thing – what it means is that it will eventually get increasingly harder for developers to make films like these and not tread on the heels of previous similar works. The comedy in Despicable Me is pretty one-of-a-kind for now, which gives it that genuinely entertaining edge, but in my opinion the plotline isn’t exactly one that will stand the test of time. But perhaps this was known all along, as you get the sense that there is an air about Despicable Me that it’s really not trying to be something it isn’t – just a straight-edge family comedy with some original characters backing it up.

Essentially, there is a lot to like about Despicable Me, despite it actually being a fairly average film. The three girls Margo (played by iCarly’s own Miranda Cosgrove), Edith and Agnes are sickly adorable and actually provide a pretty strong centre of comedy, Steve Carell does a great job as always, and the Minions are definitely worth a giggle. The fact that the orphanage owner had what she referred to as a “Box of Shame” also made me laugh in a kind of darkly sinister way, but perhaps that’s just me… However, the major let downs of Despicable Me was the fact that it became somewhat predictable and didn’t break the mould too much for a film of its hype, and ended the film on one of those annoyingly rubbish dance scenes. Call it a pet peeve if you will, but I personally just don’t find these funny anymore and I feel it’s becoming a stamp of a rubbish ending to average films. Another niggling thing is how much films advertised as being 3D films don’t actually have much reason for using 3D. Throughout Despicable Me there was not really as much 3D effects as had been hyped but the fact that when the 3D effects were used, it didn’t exactly add to the experience or storyline but it did visually look impressive, made a bit of a difference. It will also be interesting to see how well Will Ferrell’s own evil animation Megamind does in answer this considering it also stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill when that gets its release in a couple of months time.

Overall, Despicable Me probably isn’t something I would choose to see above a lot of films currently available, but for families it’s a no-brainer! Despicable Me gets an easy 6 out of 10 for being somewhat predictable, but also a bit of fun.

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