The Review: It’s easy to wonder today how many of the spate of animated movies which have followed in the wake of Toy Story and other Pixar classics would have been made in the days of hand-drawn animation. Certainly computer graphics have opened up the opportunity to increase the level of detail on the visuals, both in terms of quality and content, but if any lesson should be learned from Pixar, it’s that story is the key – get that right, first and foremost, and the rest is complementary rather than essential.
The story here is a classic juxtaposition – Gru (Steve Carell) is an criminal mastermind working in the tough and competitive field of criminal mastermindery, but whose previous schemes have not met the success he’d have liked. His efforts to achieve prominence in his chosen profession pit him against up and coming evil genius Vector (Jason Segel), and in his efforts to get one up on his new nemesis, he’s willing to take any steps necessary, even the adoption of three unwanted orphans who turn up on his doorstep one day to sell cookies. His underestimation of the implications of this development only serve to complicate his efforts to achieve his greatest challenge yet – to steal the Moon…
So the story itself is fairly solid, and there are a few standout elements. The first is Gru himself, Carell going for an indeterminate Eastern-European style accent that actually gives his character just that – character. It’s easy to warm to him and also to remain sympathetic, despite his oddball plans. The little ones in his care are also extremely entertaining, be it the perfectly balanced orphan trio or the vast array of freakish-looking yellow minions, and the movie isn’t afraid to play on some of their stranger physical characteristics, which also generate some of the bigger laughs.
But, and there is a but, that’s all that really stands out. If you’ve seen the making of that gets cycled on afternoon TV and satellite channels, you’ll have seen how good Julie Andrews is as Gru’s mum – but she actually gets about four lines in the final cut. The plot itself has some rough edges (these criminal masterminds are oddly civilised and very formal for a bunch of evil criminals, even the cute and cuddly kind) that diminish its impact. It’s not fair to expect everything to have the large emotional impact of (yes, them again) Pixar, but it only engages the emotions a little, and also ends up being mildly chucklesome rather than laugh out loud funny. Most of the rest of the supporting cast, including an oddly miscast Russell Brand, also leave little impact. It should please your smaller minions and it’s good value for the whole family, but this is more “Despicable Meh” than anything else.
Why see it at the cinema: There’s some well-handled action sequences and generally lots going on at any one time, so the cinema does do Despicable Me some favours.
Why see it in 3D: There’s moderately effective use of the third dimension during the running time, but the end crecits are the most prominent 3D showcase, with minions competing to see how far into the audience’s faces they can get. Ah, my eyes!
The Score: 6/10