Well-executed Despicable Me lacks wit and depth
Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, and Kristen Wiig. Rated G. Opens Friday, July 9
In Three Godfathers, crusty badmen were softened by an adorable baby. Here, that often-made tale morphs into one about a supervillain lumbered with three little girls who make him rethink his evil ways. Awww!
Watch the trailer for Despicable Me.
That’s practically all you need to know about Despicable Me, a computer-animated romp in the Pixar vein, but without the Toy Story crowd’s wit or depth. A first directorial feature for toon veterans Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, working from a threadbare script by the guys who did Horton Hears a Who!, the film is very well executed, especially in the 3D-design and voice department. Steve Carell manages to come up with an entirely new persona as Gru, a would-be Dr. No with a Dracula accent and mommy issues. (Julie Andrews plays the bullying mom, so he does get some sympathy.)
Lately, Gru’s big heists are paling in comparison with young upstart Vector (Jason Segel, channeling Jon Lovitz), whose capers are better funded by the Bank of Evil—“Formerly Lehman Brothers”, it says in smaller chiseled type. That’s practically the only line that made me laugh, unfortunately, and it wasn’t even dialogue. Once Gru brings home a trio of tots from Miss Hattie’s Home for Orphans (Kristen Wiig is the sadistic Miss Hattie), his bad plans go south and so does the movie.
The kids’ personalities don’t develop past obvious cuteness, and much time is given to the pratfalls of Gru’s yellow-skinned minions. Really, isn’t it a waste to hire Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement to make chipmunk squeaks? On the other hand, Russell Brand does a killer Bob Hoskins as Gru sidekick Dr. Nefario. Viewers over the age of 11 will have to make do with such awfully small pleasures.