Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Despicable Me: Not Quite...

I am often told that I over-analyse things; that I take movies too seriously. This brief review is going to be pretty hard evidence of that.

"Despicable Me" marks Universal's emergence into the CG family-film arena dominated by Pixar and Dreamworks, and has proved mightily successful across the pond.

The film introduces us to Gru, a beak-nosed weirdo voiced by Steve Carell seemingly channelling Bela Lugosi. He is a super-villain type, with a legion of minions and all sorts of wacky gadgets hidden in a secret HQ beneath his house. For some convoluted reason, he decides to adopt three orphaned girls and the stage is set for his softening up and learning the value of family and all that pish.

My problems with this film began pretty early on. For starters: Gru isn't a villain, he's just a bit of a nob. When the worst thing he does is build a balloon animal for a kid and then pop it (in a gag nicked from "The Mask"), it's not much of an arc for him to become a good-guy.

The trio of children, though obviously supposed to be cute and tenacious and cheeky and lovable, just made me want to punch things. If Gru was such a bad guy, I thought, why didn't he just slit their throats in their sleep? No such luck. I began to check out of the film when one of the kids accidentally vapourises the youngest one's cuddly unicorn, only for the bereft tyke to hold its breath until Gru gets her another one. And he does. He sends his minions out to get another one, instead of smacking the little chimp in the head or simply letting it asphyxiate itself.

So the rest of the film plays out kind of like one of those old, terrible Donald Duck cartoons when he's getting driven mental by a chipmunk or something and then inexplicably makes friends with it at the end. Gru spends the whole film getting pissed off by the kids, who set about ruining his life for him, before becoming unconvincingly attached to them.

Of course, this is a U-cert film aimed squarely at little kids, but still, the characterisation is inconsistent, the plotting formulaic, predictable and occasionally contrived, and the movie too often descends into forced sentimentality.

That said, there are laughs to be had, Jason Segel is amusing as Gru's nemesis, there are a couple of entertaining set-pieces, and Gru's little yellow minions have a certain silly charm, even if they are a bit one-note. All they do is jabber and punch one another.

The film is bright, colourful, and engaging enough for a little light entertainment, and will most likely keep your kids occupied, but it falls short of the high standard set recently by films such as "Up" and "How to Train Your Dragon".


  1. While I really, really love reading your reviews, with this particular film, I think you've missed the point.
    Gru is a terrible villain. Because he's not a villain. He wants to be, but his heart is just too big. That's why he's middle-aged and hasn't done anything impressively villain-ish yet. He's not a bad man, but he thinks he wants to be. The three little tykes make him realise that he's really a good guy.
    I found this film much, much more entertaining than Up.

  2. I agree with the poster above. Though this was still an entertaining review regardless.

  3. You're a Dick.....all back to normal. On a serious note this is chief at kids more than the usual CGI fare.....there doesn't seen to be as many tongue in cheek adult humor moments. On the other hand it does seem to of been lazily written, rather formulaIc and relies on it's principal lead voice and repeated sight gags involving the minions

  4. It's a proper kid's film, rather than a kid's film for adults (see most things Pixar shit out). Therefore you can't really review it in an adult's framework, let alone your curmudgeonly one. How about and update on when you're being fix by OCP?

  5. Aus + iron: its not that I missed the point, more that the point didn't do anything for me. As is said in the review, the arc from "bit of a dick" to "good guy" isn't a particularly compelling one. And I find "cantankerous old geezer who's given up on life learns to live again through friendship, adventure and a confrontation with his past, personified by his childhood hero" a lot more engaging than "wannabe badguy learns value of family from three annoying children". One of those is a daring choice of story for a kids' film, the other might as well be the plot for the next Adam Sandler film.

    Jig + rasta: I did acknowledge the kiddie nature of the film and the fact that I'm probably analysing it too much a couple of times in the review, but I stand by my judgement. More OCP news as and when it happens.

    Yo: thank-you very much.

    Cheers for all comments!