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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cutesy Minions Didn't Woo Despicable Me

Despicable Me = 2 1/2 out of 5
Gru: I shrink the moon, I grab the moon, I sit on the toilet bowl... what?
[sees a child's drawing in his plans, of himself sitting on a toilet bowl]
While I appreciated some of the original elements and a soundtrack by Pharrell Williams (which was the most enticing element to get me to see this film) the main problem for me with this film was that I was really bored by it. There was a lot of forced cuteness to make sure to get obvious reactions from younger audiences, but nothing beyond few comedic highlights were present to keep me entertained.

Steve Carell stars as the voice of Gru, an evil supervillain, less obsessed with world domination, and more by the prospect of having the most media recognition and respect from his mother, voiced by Julie Andrews. Gru speaks with a crazy East European accent, lives in the suburbs, with an underground secret lair, works with his partner - Dr. Nefarious, voiced by Russell Brand, and his minions, which are known as "Minions," and has a new plan that may be his biggest yet. He plans to steal the moon.

Gru may have a few setbacks however, as he needs more funds to help pay for his schemes and an even newer supervillain, Vector, voiced by Jason Segel, is trying to upstage Gru at every turn. However, Gru may be able to accomplish his goals thanks to a plan involving three little orphan girls he has chosen to adopt. Of course, by adopting these little girls, Gru may now have his work cut out for him.

Gru: Lightbulb!
Recapping the synopsis for the film made it sound may more interesting than it ended up being. Despite the "cold-hearted guy learns to love" plot element, the other factors surely sound like an intriguing enough premise that could lead to some good fun, but I really just didn't have much of that. A number of moments certainly made me laugh here and there, but I really just found much of the film to be a bore; even in 3D (which looked fine, but was nothing to care much about).


Besides lacking in the funny (and I didn't really emphasize the fact that this film has quite a good cast, yet still doesn't manage to make the best of it), the real major gripe I had was how blatant it was in milking the elements specifically designed to be cute for all its worth. Here, I am referring to the minions and the youngest girl orphan, Agnes. Especially considering the marketing (which was another strange build up to this film's release), I haven't seen this much obvious setup for spin-offs and shorts featuring supporting characters since the penguins in the Madagascar films. Much of this film thrives on goofy sounds and other elements to make for way too obvious giggle moments. I'm certainly no snob for comedy, I own enough films with juvenile humor, let alone The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, but I can certainly see through a calculated gag.

Again, the real reason I was intrigued enough to see this film, was the fact that I was aware that Pharrell Williams was in charge of the score and writing songs for the film. As a huge N.E.R.D. and Neptunes fan, among other facets of Pharrell's work, I did want to see what his chops were when putting his talent up for a feature film. In that respect, I wasn't disappointed, and I enjoyed the music (I have listened to this soundtrack way too much).

On another side note, the animation is good enough. Up to par with some of the current crop of animated features, with some funky character designs and set pieces. 3D is a possibility, not a waste, but not necessary either.

Overall, I can see how others can get by with laughing at a lot of the goofy elements going on in this film and I respect some of the original ideas and the soundtrack, but I'm hoping the inevitable Despicable Me 2: Still Despicablin' will step up its game in the humor department.
Dr. Nefario: Here's the new weapon you ordered.
[Shoots minion with the fart gun]
Gru: No, no, no. I said DART gun.
Dr. Nefario: Oh yes. Cause I was wondering... under what circumstances would we use this?

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