Friday Movie Blog: Despicable Me

Animation is the only thing that's making movie-going worthwhile this summer

“So what have you seen recently that’s good?” Nowadays, that seems to be the million-dollar question. Sure I can tell people to see A-Team (C+) or Knight and Day (B-) because they are completely stupid, mindless, and kinda fun. But frankly, my heart’s not really behind those recommendations. I mostly suggest them because they’re a way to avoid the hellish heat for a few passable hours. Now, I’ve stated over and over … and over … again that I feel let down by the live-action movies this year. Haven’t you? Thinking about the reeking heap of processed Hollywood trash (too harsh?), I constantly wonder if my blog should be renamed “The Friday Movie Slog.” Yet somehow, one genre has become the veritable champion. One genre consistently gives me hope that the 2010 Summer Blockbuster season will soon be over (like how I hoped the freaking Goo Goo Dolls would stop playing so that the 4th of July fireworks would finally freaking start). So what is that genre? Animation. From How to Train Your Dragon to Toy Story 3, these movies have provided intelligent plot, sharp dialogue, and beautiful filmmaking. So I’m pleased to say that Despicable Me continues the trend. It provides silly slapstick and honest-to-god laughs, just when we need them most.

Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, a supervillain whose villainy has become a little less super—his recent heists include the Las Vegas Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower … also from Las Vegas. His only hope of reclaiming his status (not to mention a loan from the bank) is through one perfect, maniacal take—the moon. All he has to do is: a) adopt three orphaned girls, b) use said orphans to defeat Vector, his nerdishly brilliant competitor (voiced by Jason Segel), and c) pathetically attempt to win the approval of his mother (Julie Andrews). He has gadgets, robots, rockets, and yellow-pill-bodied minions … many, many minions.

And these minions steal the movie. Whether they are blowing each other up, wearing costumes, or simply babbling in their minionese, these delightfully ridiculous creations brought many belly laughs from the audience of adults and children. The voice talent is equally impressive. Steve Carell is immensely likable. He is able to provide warmth to the wicked role, which makes you believe his character’s growth. Additionally, Jason Segel provides a nebbish lilt to nerdy Vector. The first interaction between their characters at the bank is particularly memorable (let’s just say it involves a piranha gun).

Whether you go by yourself, with some friends, or with your kids, make sure you see this movie. Yes it’s an excuse to escape the Hades-like weather for a few hours. But really, it’s the perfect antidote to the summer doldrums. (In theaters.)

My Grade: B+