Sep 6, 2010

[Movies] Despicable Me (2010)

Despicable Me (2010)In the CGI movie market, the big guns remain to be Pixar and DreamWorks Animation. A few others have taken a stab at entering this particular movie market, with mixed if not limited success. And as much as I love the products that come out from both studios, I'm never entirely opposed to new players entering the market. Seriously, I was one of the people who enjoyed Hoodwinked!

A big reason why I still like these movies is that the writers tend to do a pretty stellar job of writing good comedy. Sure, the animation medium does allow for more liberties in terms of sight gags and what you can have the characters do, but it takes a skilled group of writers to figure out how to best utilize the medium to full effect. And of course a fairly visionary director knowing how to put all those diverse elements together.

I suppose this is what keeps me as a kid at heart. I'll always be able to derive pleasure and enjoyment from watching most cartoons. It just really helps when the writers are similarly spirited and thus they make sure that not just the young in age enjoy the movie.

Despicable Me is Universal Pictures' first venture into producing animated films. As a new player in this arena, I'm rather impressed with how things have come along so far.

Steve Carell at the 2007 Academy AwardsImage via WikipediaGru (Steve Carell) is a villain, although whether or not to call him "super" is still up in the air. While living his seemingly normal suburban life, news breaks out that someone has stolen one of the pyramids of Giza, in classic Carmen Sandiego fashion. This infuriates him and forces him to set in motion what could be the greatest heist in history - to steal the moon! Together with his large horde of adorable little yellow minions, he pledges to truly make a name for himself as a villain and to finally make his mother (Julie Andrews) proud of him as well.

But he lacks the funs to set this plan in motion, plus he needs to steal the shrink ray needed for the heist. He tries to borrow money from the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) however Mister Perkins (Will Arnett), president of the bank declines his request in favor of supporting younger up and coming villains such as Vector (Jason Segel). What's worse, his initial attempt to steal the shrink ray ends up with Vector stealing it from him in turn. With few other options, Gru suddenly sees a potential opportunity to get the shrink ray back in the form of three orphan girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elise Fisher).

Steve Carell played Gru as some strange Eastern European character with the ridiculous accent to boot. He has his fair share of comical moments but nothing too over the top, I suppose. I think he was funniest at the beginning of the movie when he's showing he's a villain in his little community as opposed to the end when he was dealing with Vector in his efforts to steal the moon. I have to admit, if it was just him alone, I probably wouldn't have considered the movie to be funny.

However the adorable little pill-shaped minions totally saved the day for me and my partner. Sure, I know on an intellectual level they were designed to be the most appealing characters in the movie. They're cute, cuddly, unintelligible and just plain funny. They have a mix of sight gags, odd costumes and humorous situations that made the movie a lot more easy to get through. Plus the writers made sure to insert a lot of running gags in the movie that rewarded the observant.

Come to think of it, a lot of the humor in this movie was like that - quick, intelligent and easy to miss. It's probably why reactions from lower viewers has beens somewhat mixed. DreamWorks and Pixar know how to keep the humor at a certain level in order to reach more people. This first Universal venture was a tad uncompromising in that regard and it probably left a number of people in the dark in terms of some of the jokes. I can forgive this for now, but understandable their continued success in the future will depend on their ability to reach out to more people.

The kids were okay, but nothing too spectacular. Naturally only Agnes actually has funny lines and moments in the film, mostly involving fluffy unicorns. Awww. The others were okay but lacked sufficient development to make them distinct enough or personable enough for us to relate to them better.

One of the things that I liked best about this movie was how it utilized 3D to full comedic effect. Sure, filmmakers like James Cameron can go on forever and ever about how 3D is the future of movies and how we need to take it more seriously. But I totally disagree since the need for glasses is cumbersome, the overall lighting gets darker and in the end it's still a very modest improvement. The people behind this movie didn't get bogged down with that and instead treated the 3D element for what it really is - a gimmick that can make movies funnier, and more entertaining for kids. Thus we have all those sequences of pointy objects reaching out to the audience and of course that hilarious in-credits sequence at the end of the movie. Good job you guys!

Despicable Me is a decent first attempt by Universal and one that my partner and I enjoyed immensely. It gets 3.5 aquatic life armed guns out of a possible 5.
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