As a lifelong Disney naysayer, I've talked a lot of shit about actual quality animation. I'll be doing none of that here. If you have infant ears, take them away. If you thought this movie was awesome, leave a pissy comment and move on. I fucking hated Despicable Me and thought it was quite possibly the worst cartoon I've seen in ages. And I use the word "cartoon" disparagingly, as well as the words "pandering shitfest." Better children's flicks have landed guys in jail. I kid, pun intended. Despicable Me's Blu-ray animation is eye-poppingly amazing. I suspect it looks almost as good on DVD. These well-intended compliments are coming to a glaring halt soon. I can't imagine what this script read like when these comedic superstars signed on for the roles and then shovel-fed them into the microphone. Is there a Gru-like villain somewhere in our midst that makes people make bad movies? Wait, that's just a normal thing. Let me not attribute all that to one person. Screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul have plumbed the depths of corny and awful jokes to pepper this easily ignorable story. When sub-dastardly protagonist Gru gets an idea, he verbally cues it up by saying, "Light bulb." The chicken wouldn't cross the road to listen to this.
Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, is a top villain whose track record has taken a hit due to failing projects. (I'm pettily calling xenophobia on Carell for choosing a foreign accent.) In the outside world, Gru is your average rude dickface. But inside his sanctum, he's the mad genius who takes an elaborately designed elevator system down to a huge laboratory he shares with Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), a deafened neurotic. Populating the rest of the lab are short, yellow Minions that spout French gibberish and make a mess of things as Gru's bumbling workforce. The Minions are a definite stick in this film's flimsy spokes. Their antics would make a three-year-old laugh, but the tired slapstick pales in comparison to even the least-effective Three Stooges short. The shit-smell of merchandising reeks when they flip-flop around the screen.
On the flip-side of morality (but the same side of stupid) are three orphaned sisters who will never find adoptive parents, at least according to orphanage head Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig). Hattie's declaration sounds cruel, but it pretty much tells you the finale, if you're keen to how simple children's movies work. Perhaps this should have been called Predictable Me. The three girls add no dimensions to the proceedings. Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) is the older sassypants. Edith (Dana Gaier) is the boring middle one. Agnes (Elsie Fisher) is the sickeningly cutesy one. Why no one would adopt them, I've become aware.
Gru's new plan will end in the greatest heist of all time: to shrink and steal the moon! There are no real-world implications behind his plan; he just wants the moon. Without a shrink ray, he can't get a loan from Bank of Evil bank manager, Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett). Mr. Perkins is impressed with the younger, sleeker version of a villain that the nerdish Vector (Jason Segel) represents. Vector is the one whose world-wide crimes have left Gru in the dust. And so Vector ends up with the shrink ray, which Gru plots to steal from him, using the help of the Girl Scout Cookies-hocking orphan sisters. Can you see where this is going?
As plots go, it's completely ridiculous and outdated, but it could be forgiven if the dialogue and humor weren't so God-awful. (And I'm not sure Pharrell's soundtrack should have been here at all.) There are poop jokes, fart jokes, and a butt-Xeroxing joke: the trifecta of failure. The lack of wit is startling, as if this had been one of Universal's Land Before Time double-digit sequels instead of a blockbuster. I may have chuckled once or twice, and nothing moved me emotionally. It confuses me, because I really wanted to enjoy this movie. However: Gru is in a rocket in outer space, worried about hurrying home in time for the girls' dance recital that night. Am I really supposed to believe in anything in this movie? Maybe in the flashbacks where we witness the inception of Gru's childhood rejection from his mother (Julie Andrews)? It is to shudder.
I didn't get to see a 3-D version, which wouldn't have added to the core, but every bit helps. Some jokes were flat without it, pun not intended. But I'll spend a few more sentences glorifying the look. It was extremely vibrant and colorful throughout. In an amusement park scene, there's a POV shot from a roller coaster seat that's as perfect as I can imagine. In 3-D, I suspect I would have inhaled my beard. So I unironically congratulate you, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, for directing the hell out of a terrible movie. For fans of this movie, I'd advise you to get your parents to buy this set for you. It's well-stocked. Just ask the people to whom I've already regifted my copy. It comes with the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy. The Blu-ray can be watched in Gru-control, which plays things as if Gru is showing the Minions the film. Every so often, the Minions interrupt things in fun little ways, cheering for Gru and themselves and such. It keeps things interesting for kids, I'd assume.
In their commentary, directors Coffin and Renaud laud their efforts a bit too often, but keep things light and informative enough to make it a solid listen. The two voiced the film's Minons, so there was a lot of that involved, but that's when I would text message someone and stop listening.
For further background info, check out "The Voices of Despicable Me," a 15-minute bit that features all the actors and directors talking about what they brought to the roles. Nobody mentions depth. It was interesting to see everyone using Skype to work, rather than all being in a single studio. Then there's "The World of Despicable Me," in which the writers give their reasons for all the story beats they chose. Had I owned a cheaper TV, I would have thrown something at it when they spoke. In "Despicable Beats," Pharell talks about how lucky he is to work on the movie, as his beats play in the background. I like the music, but this movie did not call for it.
Except for an option to read Miss Hattie's cookie recipes (which I'll be referring back to one day), the rest is for the kids. There are three short mini-movies that all feel about as funny as any random few minutes of the feature. "Super Silly Fun Land" contains three carnival games to play with the remote. "Gru's Rocket Builder" is a landmark-identifying game that's at least educational to some extent.
There's nothing left for me to say here. For a movie with the word "despicable" in its title, the subject matter is far too light and frothy, and the only despicable thing is the dialogue. I relegate it to background noise during a play date.
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