Despicable Me falls into the same trap as so many other CGI family pictures. It features nice animation, memorable characters, some really funny sequences that are reminiscent of Looney Tunes and other slapstick cartoons of yore. Unfortunately, that's all weighed down by a plot that's trite and predictable. You may not be able to guess the exact beats of the story, but you know the overall picture and you can see the ending coming immediately, maybe even the first scene. Hell, you can probably guess what's going to happen based on Gru's character design alone. True CGI family film villains never look like actual villains. They leak silly and weak, often sporting bright colors . Gru looks like a true villain.
Gru is, of course, the star of the story. Gru is a supervillian. He looks like a mish mash of Dr. Frankenstein's Igor and Batman villain The Penguin. He's stocky, which big shoulders, and an impossibly bald head. His nose also defies reality, resembling a bird beak more than a human organ. There are no superheroes in Despicable Me, only villains, in a race to be the most dastardly mind of all time. When it's discovered that the Great Pyramid of Giza has been stolen, Gru realizes he needs to up his game, and hatches a plan to steal the Moon. Along the way, he adopts three disarmingly cute orphan girls to be pawns in his scheme, and if you haven't figured it all out yet, you will when they show up.
Gru has an army of minions. They're all tiny, yellow, and pill-shaped, and many only sport one eye. They also speak in babbling nonsense. I think that this is a bit of a cheat. They're not not exactly overwhelmingly original, and it's very hard to take a cute little creature with large cartoon eyes, make them spout gibberish, and not have it end up being both cute and funny. It's like bringing your girlfriend to a slide show of orphaned puppies. Of course she's going to give it a thumbs up, and there will probably be tears. They're fun to watch, but it's such a sure thing, it's just the easy way out.
Like many modern animated movies, Despicable Me sports a cast list of big Hollywood stars. I'm not a fan of doing, as I think there are a lot of professional voice actors out there that could use the work and almost always do a better job, but to the film's credit, it does something unheard of with its cast: it makes me almost completely. You can tell Gru is Steve Carrell doing an accent. I also recognized Will Arnett and Jason Segel. And anybody who's ever watched 30 Rock will immediately know Jack McBrayer's voice. But I didn't know Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, or Danny R. McBride, three actors that I'm extremely familiar with. McBride, especially, does a voice very unlike his own.
Despicable Me is a lot of fun and I'm not going to forget about it any time soon, but if it had just tried something original with its plot and resolution, it could have been a true classic.
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