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This just in: an evil supervillain now poses a major threat to all the pathetic films currently in theaters. Chiseled leading men, blond damsels, and shoddy storytelling beware, “Despicable Me” has your number with a fantastic adventure that’s the surprise hit of the summer, easily knocking “Toy Story 3” off its animated mantle.
A tribute to spy films of the ‘60s, and a slapstick adventure comedy, “Despicable Me” capitalizes on the superhero trend by exploring its evil adversary, the supervillain. This is the story of that ominous villain behind a desk, stroking his white cat while he plans James Bond’s demise.
Like a superhero story, we learn that there’s always something more going on in the shadows of the legend. Gru (Steve Carell) has trouble making a name for himself, as he’s constantly upstaged by competitors like fellow supervillain Vector (Jason Segel). But it’s rather difficult to reach for the stars when mom (Julie Andrews) tells you that your chance to do so ended when NASA stopped shooting monkeys into space. But our protagonist won’t listen to mom or the supervillain bank as he prepares for his greatest heist yet: stealing the moon.
In a truly villainous move, Gru uses three orphans – Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) – to advance his plot. As the cliché goes, our hardened criminal softens because of the unlikely encounter.
From the beginning, “Despicable Me” is a blast that keeps a solid pace, even through some of the credits. In his introduction, there’s a slight hope that Gru just might be a nice guy as he blows up a balloon animal for a crying child…just to pop it in his face.
This lovable jerk makes Dr. House feel cuddly. It doesn’t have the heart of “How to Train Your Dragon” but the hilarity and use of 3-D go into overdrive. Like “The Incredibles”, the heart of the story lies in the characters and clever use of genre conventions rather than originality.
There’s enough homage to such works as “The Godfather”, all things Bond and a plethora of superhero nods to make film connoisseurs drool, but there’s also plenty of wit and physical comedy for everyone else. It’s got twice the laughs of “Dragon” and “Toy Story 3” with spectacular characters and the most quotable lines at the movies this year. Prepare yourself for the most fun you’ll have at the movies in the past few months as it quenches your reel thirst in the midst of the movie famine of 2010.
As far as adorable characters go, this one’s chock full of them. There’s the Twinkie-shaped minions who communicate through inaudible squeaks (though a Best Buy mobile application will translate their conversations during the credit sequence), Gru’s “dog” who looks more like a piranha with legs, and the orphans with their own wonderful brand of adorable—especially Edith and her most memorable line, soon to be a ringtone for fans everywhere, “It’s so fluffy!” (Wanna know the context? Go see the film.)
Let’s not forget the voice behind our protagonist. Steve Carell, nails the German accent, providing a new side to the actor with often one-note roles. This is what Igor would look like with a straightened back, a taste for fame and a keen eye for conniving and technology.
Even more shocking than Carell’s contribution, Brit-comic Russell Brand (Aldous Snow from “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) soars as the voice of Dr. Nafario, Gru’s aged, hearing-impaired assistant. And Jason Segel (star of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall) takes the antagonist to new levels as he invents a voice that doesn’t resemble his other work.
This is the year DreamWorks Animation finally makes Pixar fight back. Could it be an end to yet another Disney monopoly? DreamWorks has ‘em beat by the number of films per year, but quality – intellectual and technical – was always a problem, until now. With one film already better than Pixar’s yearly edition, this gem clearly makes the Dream team victor of 2010.
Wildly entertaining and mildly heartfelt, “Despicable Me” knows just what to give a summer audience, but it’s attention to real issues exists in the details. We have here a story about three orphans finding a different home than they expect.
In place of a mother and father is a supervillain, reimaging the ideal family as more than neutral and far less ordinary. The end result is movie candy that leaves you satisfied and ready for seconds.
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