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Universal / 95 Minutes / 2010 / Rated PG / Street Date: December 14, 2010
Cute and fun but not fully attention-grabbing, Despicable Me is more funny ha ha than it is entirely memorable. Showcasing a voice cast that animators dream about and modern musical score (a little hip hop here is a nice change from the norm), Despicable Me is better than a Shrek but not as good as a Pixar flick: It's a great way to waste an hour-and-a-half, but I doubt it'll still be relevant in a couple years.
But maybe that's not that big a deal - it may mean more to engage a current audience than it does to have legs (Despicable Me was a monstrous box office hit, making more than $500 million worldwide). I've already used the term 'fun', but that appears to be priority number one for Despicable Me. This is not a movie that uses dramatic and narrative nuance to influence and direct its narrative shape (it ain't The Incredibles, that's for damned sure), but instead uses broad, Lego-block plot devices to fuel its jokey story along.
It's pretty standard fare - we have a lovable protagonist, Gru (Steve Carell), who dreams of being the world's greatest villain, so he tries to one-up his biggest rival, Vector (Jason Segel), by staging a hijacking of the moon (I mean, seriously - if you can steal the moon, you can steal anything). So it seems as though Gru and his band of giggly yellow minions have it all planned out...until Gru adopts three young girls - in an attempt to use them to infiltrate enemy territory - and their love slowly teach the old wretch the real meaning of Christmas.
If you have kids, you already know that the Minions are the real stars of the show here - like the Claw-worshipping aliens in the Toy Story movies, they don't just offer up comic relief: It's as if the entire arc of the movie revolves around getting those little yellow guys in the picture as often as possible.
I suppose it all comes down to the fact that yes, Pixar has spoiled us. If we didn't know the distinct magic of movies like Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc., we'd likely think that diverting fare like Despicable Me is the cream of the crop. But Despicable Me could have used some Pixar finesse: It's a pleasing romp, but a fleeting one.