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Despicable Me (film) review

If the cutesy film genre needed another flick, then Despicable Me would certaintly fit the bill. Set in what’s presumably present day New York City, the evil Gru gets sent back to being the number two super-villain in the world as an adversary manages to steal an Egyptian pyramid. Their rivalry begins soon enough, and at every turn Gru is seemingly bested by the younger, much dorkier Vector.

As a story, the premise is intriguing enough, and expected hilarity would ensue considering the comical art direction and almost caricature character design, but it just doesn’t happen. More specifically, the humor is cute, the kind that you nod to instead of laugh about. A few moments were certainly laugh out loud funny, but half of these were in the trailers to begin with.

Yet this plot is only a sub-plot to Gru’s search for love and finding his heart through three orphan girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes. At first they’re just a tool to penetrate Vector’s defenses, but ultimately they break through his psychological barriers, as we discover through flashbacks of his mother never caring for his fantastical dreams to go to the moon.

Through all of these twists and turns, the theater remained surprisingly quiet, even with a fair amount of children present. Despicable Me has what I call the cartoon effect: We watch it because cartoons are pleasant to watch, even if it holds little to no value to us. The movie was indeed visually stimulating, even in 3D, which on a side note is a complete waste for this film, so save your money. The 3D effects are so minimal that I was able to watch half the movie without 3D glasses whatsoever and it looked fine.

I believe the biggest problem is that the evil characters aren’t actually evil, just silly in a demented way. Vector may be a thief and a jerk, but he builds guns that shoot piranhas and octopi, and uses his keyboard with his butt. Gru freezes a line of people to get his coffee first, but then smiles and leaves a tip. He’s afraid of his dog-thing and adores his minions, and often comes up as a disappointment even though he is supposedly one of the best supervillians around.

If evil looks up to Gru, then good has nothing to worry about, and we lose any sense of adventure or excitement until the apex of the film, which follows the traditional bad-guy-turns-good yellow brick road. By all means, take the kids to see it instead of whatever horror’s on the Disney channel these days, but know that it’s a fair hour and a half spent. Not a good or bad 95 minutes, but 95 minutes nonetheless.

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James Pikover
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