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Despicable Me


[Rating: 2/5]

If you go to the movies often, for instance, if you saw “Toy Story 3” and/or “How to Train Your Dragon,” then rest assured that you can show up to “Despicable Me” late.   It took about twenty minutes before I saw a sequence I hadn’t already seen in a trailer.   There’s the Starbucks freeze sequence, the inflatable pyramid sequence, and the balloon animal sequence.  Say what you will about new animation company Illumination Entertainment; their approach to movie trailers is unique.   If they ever make an uber-hyped film that starts running trailers in July for a Christmas open, you just might be able to see the whole movie before it ever opens.  (Is that even legal?)

Just about everything in “Despicable Me” is borrowed from a superior source.   Our hero is a wannabe super villain – that’s a page out of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible, as is most of the world where this movie takes place, a world where one can go to the Bank of Evil and apply for a loan to finance some great crime, like stealing the moon.  When our hero/villain, named Gru and voiced by Steve Carrell, is turned down by the bank manager, I couldn’t help but think: you’re a villain.  Why don’t you just steal the money from him?  But that never occurs to Gru.

Instead, he must steal a shrink ray gun from another villain; to show the bank manager he hasn’t lost his touch.   But that other villain, whose name is Vector and is voiced by Jason Siegel, lives in a compound more heavily defended than Fort Knox.  (Again: why not just rob a bank?) The only way in is by adopting three little girls from the local orphanage, because Vector has a weakness for Girl Scout cookies.

After he takes the three girls home (why does he adopt three little girls?  Wouldn’t the plan work with just one?)  one of them quips, “When we were adopted by a bald guy, I thought it’d be more like “Annie.”   Alas, she’s just in the wrong part of Annie, the part when Daddy Warbucks is still brisk and gruff, before they go swimming and sing songs to FDR.   Just wait, little girl with the old lady’s name (it’s Agnes or Edith or something, I don’t remember.)  The “I Don’t Need Anything But You” scene is coming.

(Did I mention that Gru is attended by little yellow, goggly-eyed creatures that speak in squeaky gibberish?   They are so reminiscent of the squeak toys in “Toy Story” that I kept waiting for them to chant “The Claaaw….” in unison.)

Gru takes the kids to an amusement park, where he uses his death ray to knock down the thing that wins them the toy, and it’s all downhill from there.   His grand heist of the moon grows less and less important, the girls demand more and more of his time and attention, and it all ends in a giant, frenzied action sequence that, (surprise, surprise) feels heavily borrowed from the one in “Up.”

By borrowing from quality sources, “Despicable Me” manages to present a veneer of quality.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the guys at Cartoon Saloon clearly have good taste and know what works when they see someone else do it.  It is blandly pleasant, funny in parts, and it passes the time.   But because it utterly fails to do, or even try, anything remotely original, “Despicable Me” feels awfully generic.   This is store-brand Pixar.  Too bad the movie theaters charge name brand price for it.

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2 Responses

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  1. K said

    Erm… this film was made by Universal Studios.. NOT by Cartoon Saloon as you have written here!!

  2. Ack, you’re right! The last animated film I reviewed (Secret of Kells) was made by Cartoon Saloon. What I meant to say was Illumination Entertainment Sorry!

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