Thursday, July 22, 2010

REVIEW: Despicable Me

Despicable Me must go down as the worst-titled film of the year - because no movie in 2010 has made me laugh more than this one.

Not even Toy Story 3, you might wonder? No, not even Toy Story 3. Mind you, Toy Story 3 is a much richer and cleverer work. But only Despicable Me has given my diaphragm such a workout.

Even before the movie came out, I had a sneaking feeling it was a canny little number. The first trailer (the one with the deflatable pyramid) wasn't all that funny - but it was just bizarre enough to make me wonder what the heck it was.

Then, Universal  hit on their masterstroke - they started emphasizing the little yellow minions in their ads - "Those guys are really funny," I thought. "There must be something to this movie."

And indeed there was. Although it works best as a comedy, it's not just a laugh machine. Despicable Me has a surprisingly strong emotional core that sort of sneaked up on me. As I laughed  throughout, I found myself caring quite a lot about the characters, which was surprising considering how broadly they're drawn.

The pro-antagonist Gru (Steve Carell) and the con-antogonist Vector (Jason Segel) are both hapless wanna-be villains who think they're like Lex Luthor but are really more like Wile E. Coyote - clever, to be sure, but not as masterful as they think they are. And to make matters even worse, both of them have parental problems - Vector has daddy issues and Gru can never seem to please his mother, caustically voiced by Julie Andrews in a wonderful bit of casting against type.

Between all of them are three orphans whom Gru ends up "adopting" so he can use them to get at Vector. Predictably but endearingly, Gru finds himself falling for them - and so did I.

In fact, I liked the girls so much that I wish they were better defined. Their personalities, compared to most of the other characters, are a bit sketchy. The oldest, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove, AKA iCarly) is the kinda brainy one, Edith (Dana Gaier) is the loopy middle kid and little Agnes (Elsie Fisher) is the hyper, adorable one with a yen for unicorns. They're lots of fun, but had their characters been fleshed out a little more, the movie might not have faded from my mind as much as it did.

Still, the abundance of laughs, especially from the hysterical minions, compensate. They steal scenes in the first, second and third dimensions.  (Along with Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon, this film is one of the few that actually benefits from 3D). The more "human" they try to act, the funnier they are.  Not bad for a bunch of little guys who look like Comtrex capsules.


No comments: