HUB Titles: Despicable Me
When it comes to animation, Pixar has basically held a stranglehold on the genre for the better part of a decade. With “Shrek” wallowing in mediocrity for a while and Pixar movies becoming the equivalent of eyeball sex, “Despicable Me” was a daring entry into a one-horse race. Fortunately, this evil scheme produced a dastardly good time.
The Premise: Megalomaniacal supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) is pulling a Brett Favre and getting too old for the young man’s game of villainy. Gru decides to pull off the biggest villainous scheme of all time: stealing the moon. In order to pull this off, Gru must compete with his douche rival, Vector (Jason Segel). Vector has the shrink ray necessary to grab that giant cheeseball in the sky. Using a cunning stratagem involving orphan girl scouts, Gru employs his assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, no less) to make cookie robots to infiltrate Vector’s lair. Predictably, everything goes awry when Gru realizes he has feelings for the little girls he kidnapped. This is a lot more heartwarming and a lot less Chris Hanson-worthy than it sounds–trust me.
The Performance: Steve Carell makes this movie. He provides the voice of Gru with a diabolical accent somewhere between Dracula and “Dexter’s Laboratory.” It’s amazing how funny he makes Gru’s ceaseless deadpan attitude. As the movie gets sadder, Carell manages to still make us sympathize with the unfortunate evil mastermind. I really want to see Carell give voice acting another go, because he is surprisingly good at it.
The little girls had the potential to be annoying or interchangeable, but again, the voice acting job saved it. Miranda Cosgrove plays Margo, the straight man of the three, with a perfect eldest sister brand of juvenile skepticism. The rambunctious middle sister, Edith, is the tomboy of the group thanks to a spunky performance by Dana Gaier. Finally, little Agnes’s unicorn lust is made hilarious thanks to a stellar performance by Elsie Fisher. This is Elsie Fisher’s first voice role but it’s so professional you’d think she was a veteran. Before my admiration gets a little creepy (too late), Brand and Segel weren’t too shabby either. Segel was the right kind of hammy and Brand made me not realize it was Russell Brand. Kudos all around.
Other Thoughts: I have to mention the Minions. I couldn’t compliment them above because I’m not sure which pronoun to use for “Various voices.” Gru’s Minions go way beyond the McDonald’s toys they were created to be and are both charming and wacky. They ease the sadness of the dramatic scenes by doing something silly in the background. Somehow, a few of them become deep characters despite being identical and speaking gibberish. Whoever wrote the screenplay deserves a pat on the back for making me relate to a foot soldier. Maybe even two. But not three, I draw the line there. My last thought is actually a warning: don’t let the adorable exterior fool you, there are some dark jokes here. The protagonist IS a supervillain after all.
Final Verdict: The Pikachu. It smothers you in cuteness but it still has some attitude. It’s definitely aimed at kids but there’s plenty of fun for the older crowd, too. It is but one of many of its kind but still manages to stand out. Give it a chance and you’ll be shocked (…ugh) at how good it actually is.