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Movie review: 'Despicable Me' plot despicable

July 13, 2010|By BOB GARVER / Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, is shown with two of his minions in a scene from the 3-D CGI feature, "Despicable Me", about a villain who meets his match in three little girls.
Universal Pictures,

The characters in "Despicable Me" eat nothing but junk food. Its three orphan girl characters go door to door selling cookies, which characters order in mass quantities. The character who adopts them fills a doggie bowl with candy and tells them it's dinner. Cotton candy and other sweets are consumed at an amusement park. It is appropriate that the characters in "Despicable Me" follow this disgusting diet because the film is cinematic junk food.

The main character of the story is Gru (Steve Carell, armed with a painful Eastern European accent), a self-proclaimed "supervillain" with aspirations of stealing the moon. He's been going through a bit of a rough patch lately. He's only been able to steal lame things and the people at the Bank of Evil seem unwilling to fund his schemes anymore.

On top of that, hotshot new villain Vector (Jason Segel) just showed him up by stealing the Great Pyramids of Giza. Gru can make his moon-stealing plot work by stealing a top-secret shrink ray, but Vector steals it for himself right under Gru's comically pointy nose.

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Gru can't get into Vector's lair himself (Vector knows Gru wants the ray, and effortlessly foils a series of personal break-in attempts), but he notices that Vector has ordered some cookies from three orphan sisters. His plan is that he'll adopt the girls, supply them with cookies that are secretly ray-stealing robots, ditch the girls, and then carry on with his plan. But guess what? Taking care of the girls is more trouble than he thought.

The girls want to do things like go to dance recitals and amusement parks and listen to bedtime stories. And they constantly defy his orders to sit around quietly and not bother him. Because they're kids and they can't be expected to behave. Actually only the two younger ones can't be expected to behave. The oldest, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), seems to be mature enough to follow simple instructions, but just has an uncooperative nature that just makes her strongly unlikeable. Luckily, youngest sister Agnes is cute, sweet and unconditionally affectionate enough to balance her out.

The three girls aren't nearly as obedient as Gru's employees. Gru's second-in-command is a scientist named Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and thousands of incompetent Minions. The Minions are an easy source of humor for the film, not least of all because they look cute and funny. Their bodies are shaped like yellow jelly beans and they have either one or two big googly eyes. The characters are clearly designed to be Happy Meal toys (more junk food) and are only in the film so kids can find at least one likeable character.

The film is supposed to focus on Gru's transformation from supervillain into loving father figure, but the problem is that he isn't really a villain. The character isn't written with the motivation to be truly evil, just unpleasant. He's more like Shrek, starting off rude and selfish, but coming around to be nice and sweet. For a character like Gru to be as evil as the movie needs him to be, he needs to have more diabolical goals than making ends meet and winning his mother's approval. Three orphan girls getting adopted and finding out their new parent is megalomaniacal, that might have been fun.

Although funny in places, "Despicable Me" isn't a movie anyone needs to see. Your kids have seen the same story told better, and it certainly isn't creative or moving enough to be enjoyed by adults.

Your kids may want to see it because the minions look cute and there are funny gags in the commercials. It is similar to the way they would want a steady diet of junk food if they had the choice.

The film makes for a pretty inoffensive night out at the movies, the same way a family trip to the ice cream parlor can be fun. But please, make sure they know that there are better, smarter choices out there.

o "Despicable Me" is rated PG for rude humor and mild action. Its runtime is 105 minutes.

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