Despicable Me * * *

Genre: Animation

Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin

Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio based on a story by Sergio Pablos

Voice Cast: Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig

Running Length: 94 minutes

Synopsis: Gru (Steve Carrell) has prided himself on being a supervillain, but when someone else steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru knows it's time to step it up a notch. His new plan – to steal the moon and hold it ransom – can only be accomplished with a Shrink Ray, but getting his hands on one can be very tough when he's pitting himself against Vector (Jason Segel), the new villain on the block. Gru chances upon an unconventional solution of adopting three orphan girls – Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) – who will then become his "in" to infiltrating Vector's fortress. What Gru didn't count on, of course, was that his paternal instinct would be brought to the forefront when he is with the three girls. Superbad? Or Superdad?

Review:  Despicable Me bears more than a passing resemblance to the Shrek franchise – both movies establish an anti-hero as a central character, and both make copious use of humour and a bevy of interesting (and some will say scene-stealing) supporting characters to augment the leads. In fact, Despicable Me seems to have borrowed a fair bit off a number of other movies, but thankfully despite this the film still manages to be quite an entertaining film for young and old.

The best thing about Despicable Me is its humour, which is presented both visually and in its smart script. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and the directors wisely decided to give the minions (strange yellow gnomes spouting gibberish) a lot of exposure, with much of the sight gags coming from these creatures (and some great Spy vs Spy moments between Gru and Vector). It is great fun to watch, and even though it’s a little too piecemeal for my liking, there’s no denying that Despicable Me would be a true crowd pleaser across most audience demographics.

The voice cast is a mixed lot – Steve Carrell’s accent seems a little inconsistent, and Julie Andrews is criminally underused as Gru’s mum (although her non-committal “eehhhhh”s to Gru was one of the highlights of the film to me), but generally the cast turn in decent vocal performances, especially the directors themselves who voiced most of the gibberish spouted by the minions.

And now, the million dollar question for films released this year – to 3D or not to 3D? Despicable Me takes a slightly different route in its 3D implementation and intentionally creates scenes where the “3D effect” is very obvious, including a very tongue-in-cheek end credits sequence where the minions try to outdo each other in being “more 3D”. Yes – it’s completely a gimmick, but one that would probably be appreciated by younger audiences. I remain unimpressed, and in my opinion the film is not one that needs to be watched in 3D.

It seems that 2010 is the year of animated films, and although Despicable Me does not come close to the bar set by Pixar’s Toy Story 3, especially in terms of its story, it still manages to roundly beat almost every single live-action summer blockbuster I’ve watched this year. Even if one remains unmoved by the rather simplistic plot, only the dourest audiences would leave the cinema without at least a smile on their faces.

Rating:  * * * (out of four stars)

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