Saturday, July 10, 2010

Despicable Me (2010)

Fun, well-crafted animated film about a supervillain named Gru whose plans of stealing the moon from its orbit are sidetracked by 3 surrogate children he adopts. Regardless of the cutsey throughline, the film does not betray its villain-centric premise; most of the adult characters in the film are nefarious in some way, and that helps create the world where this film exists in. I was surprised to see Universal's logo before the film, rather than a Dreamworks or Disney, but their signature touch is evident in the distinct, insular production and character design of the film; these characters could only exist in the world the filmmakers have designed for them. The voice work is also very indicative of a desire to deviate from convention; filled with celebrity names, the only ones that are readily obvious (besides Steve Carrell) are Danny McBride and Jack McBrayer, and their roles are so background (and well-designed) that the recognition does not distract from the story. While all the voice actors are fairly note-perfect (with special mention going to Julie Andrews, Jason Segel, and Russell Brand), it is Steve Carrell that holds this movie down. While creating a thoroughly original and distinctive character design for Gru, the animators made the brilliant decision to give Gru Carrell-esque eyes and eyebrows, allowing Carrell to subtly sneak in his patented form of awkward humor at every given opportunity. Hearing him in such a radically different role from Michael Scott while still recognizing (and, repeatedly, appreciating) his signature style was one of the real pleasures of the film.

Recommended for fans of Steve Carrell and family films with a looser, more interesting vibe; this primarily French-animated film is way more Land of the Lost than Toy Story 3. There is a moment toward the end involving Gru and the moon that is almost as moving, in its own way, as the notorious furnace scene in Toy Story, and all the more rewarding because it is an animated moment reveling in the happiness of the villain; not as common as one would hope.

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