At this point, it almost seems unfair to compare every computer animated movie to Pixar. Who can compete? Outside of a select few DreamWorks Animation pictures, none have been good to the point where I thought Pixar may have some competition. So whose fault is it? The random assortment of animation studios for putting out less than stellar movies or Pixar for setting the bar so high nobody can reach it? I suppose it doesn’t matter, but after the debut of the recent Toy Story 3, one can’t help but look at Despicable Me with an exhausted chagrin.
The film follows Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), an evil mastermind who has not only stolen the Jumbotron from Times Square, but also the Statue of Liberty (the tiny one from Vegas). He considers himself the most evil of all in the land, but a young villain by the name of Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) has just stolen one of Egypt’s pyramids and replaced it with an inflatable version. The media is calling it the greatest heist ever pulled off. Gru, taking offense, decides to do one better. He plans to steal the moon. But to do so, he needs a shrink ray, the one that Vector has in his palace. After discovering Vector’s love for cookies, Gru adopts three little orphan girls named Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove) and Agnes (voiced by Elsie Fisher) who have the delicious edible resources necessary to distract him, allowing Gru to break in and snag the device. Little does he know he’s about to face some self discovery and may actually come to love the girls.
When people tell me animation is only for children, I become distraught. They clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. To counter, I point them in the direction of Wall-E, Up or even the Toy Story movies. Those films may be accessible to kids, but those who will get the most out of them are adults. They are about love and loss, identity, holding on to old memories and more. With that said, Despicable Me's messages, however admirable they may be, will only work for those who haven’t yet had the life experience to discover them on their own.
Still, as far as kid-oriented films go, this isn’t so bad. Compared to Planet 51 or the atrocious Furry Vengeance, Despicable Me comes off like a sparkling gem. It teaches kids the importance of family while also showing that it’s never too late to make things right. Children, as rotten as they can be, will watch as Gru finds the value in love, displacing his evil ways in the process, and they’ll take something from it.
It’s simpleminded to be sure, which is why it may not work for the adults in the audience who have already gained the knowledge that family is important, as evidenced by the fact that they’re most likely sitting in the theater watching it with their children. This thematic pandering to the young bleeds through its messages, however, and infiltrates the jokes, most of which go the easy route of making kids laugh, complete with farting, puking and the tired sight gag of a seemingly fragile granny suddenly break her stereotype.
I think children will enjoy Despicable Me. But where it succeeds in hitting its target audience, it fails at notarizing itself as anything more. To put it plainly, it lacks the visual artistry and emotional depth of a Pixar film. It’s hard to criticize a movie for wishing to appeal to kids and succeeding, considering how recent dreck like Marmaduke can’t even do that, but I’m not a child and can only speak for myself. While not a vapid waste of time, Despicable Me is like a fat kid running down the street. It probably won’t get far, but at least it’s trying.
Despicable Me receives 2.5/5