movie film review | chris tookey

Despicable Me

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  Despicable Me Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
6.83 /10
Voices:, Gru - Steve Carell
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Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Written by: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, from a story by Sergio Pablos

Released: 2010
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 95

Far from despicable, but should have been better.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Thanks to the James Bond franchise, we’re accustomed to super-villains who are bent on world domination or, at the very least, acquiring colossal wealth. So it’s a bit of a comedown that the latest super-villain to hit the big screen, Gru (voiced by an unrecognisable Steve Carell with a strange half-German, half-Russian accent), is so innocuous.

Sure, he pops children’s balloons and freezes people ahead of him in a queue for coffee, but his aim is not so much ultimate power as achieving a measure of celebrity that’s on a par with, say, Simon Cowell.

He finds himself overtaken as the world’s most notorious super-villain by hi-tech upstart Vector (Jason Segel), who achieves the seemingly impossible by stealing the Great Pyramid of Giza and replacing it with an inflatable replica.

What can Gru do to get himself back on the news and persuade his grumpy old mother (Julie Andrews, cast amusingly against type) that he isn’t a failure? He devises a not terribly fiendish master-plan to use the Shrink-Ray, the latest invention of his trusty assistant Dr Nefario (Russell Brand, surprisingly good), in order to steal the Moon.

But the quick-thinking Vector intervenes, and Gru has to find a way to steal it back from his well-fortified stronghold. He seizes on Vector’s only weakness – a sweet tooth – by using three little girl orphans to infiltrate his young rival’s headquarters by selling him cookies.

But will the exploited orphans melt Gru’s heart and make him see the error of his evil ways? You bet they can, almost as quickly as you can say “Silas Marner” or “Ebenezer Scrooge”.

Already a huge hit in the States, Despicable Me will do pretty well over here. It’s funny, colourful and child-friendly.

It even uses 3D with great ingenuity during the end credits – which made me wonder why the same level of invention hadn’t existed in the previous movie.

Though I laughed quite a few times, I also found myself becoming bored and dissatisfied. Its main failing is an almost total lack of screenwriting originality – hardly surprising since writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have been responsible for such past turkeys as Santa Clause 2 and College Road Trip.

The big problem is that you’ll have seen most of it before. The idea of superheroes living in suburbia was explored more entertainingly in The Incredibles. The lovable little monsters who act as Gru’s minions are awfully similar to the ones in Pixar’s Toy Story franchise. The idea of a grumpy old man having his heart melted by an adopted youngster was done much more movingly in Up.

The script sags badly in the middle, partly because the writers haven’t bothered to give the three girl orphans genuinely winsome and interesting personalities.

Nor does the screenplay explain why there are only two super-villains battling for supremacy. Wasn’t there comic mileage to be made out of jealous rivals? Why do these guys choose to live in suburbia? And why are they bent on celebrity rather than power, or wealth? Come to think of it, what do they want with the Moon or the Great Pyramid?

These may seem like the kind of curmudgeonly grumbles that only a critic would have; but one reason why Pixar have established supremacy in animation is that they bother to think such questions through and come up with ingenious and humorous solutions.

That’s why Up, The Incredibles and the three Toy Stories are classics, and this one merely a workmanlike crowd-pleaser.

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