Despicable Me

An army of minions doing slapstick humour make Steve Carell’s latest, well, despicable for DOMINIC KEEN.

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Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

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It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with the best of Pixar’s CGI offerings when viewing Despicable Me.  A consistently goofy art style that mirrors the tone of the film? Check. A harmless side-character who rapidly evolves into the stock supervillain? Yup. Surely there can’t be a collection of adorable little aliens that provide incessant slapstick relief to the films subtle and probing ruminations of family values and humanity? You bet –although ‘the claw’ doesn’t feature. Unfortunately, Despicable Me replicates all of these done-to-death concepts to produce a shallow, generally meaningless product, derivative of the many films it references and tries so hard to be.

Despicable Me is first and foremost a kids’ film. Whereas Pixar’s Toy Story, Wall-E and Up among others bear no specific demographic due to the sophistication and subtlety of the story-telling, Despicable Me is a tale for children with some adult puns strapped on for good measure. First time feature film directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud manage to shoehorn in an incongruous Annie reference, along with visual puns for The Godfather and referencing that should suffice a grunt of approval from adult cinemagoers.

We follow villainous Gru, voiced by the versatile Steve Carell, a “hilariously” eastern-European sounding super-evil bad guy who has recently been upstaged by a mystery villain. Ever-plotting, Gru spies an opportunity for revenge on said rival through the recruitment of three sickeningly sweet, hard-done-by orphan girls – the result is like watching Dr. Evil hang out with the Von Trapps.

Most of the film’s jokes come as a result of one minion blabbering in morph-speak to another, followed by a second of silence, and then BONK, some crude slapstick payoff. Once you’ve seen a minion smacked in the face by another, it becomes nothing more than a sub-par Punch and Judy Show with fewer crocodiles and sausages.

Lurking beneath the twisting story of villain funds (“the bank of evil, formerly Lehman Brothers”) and an ambition to shrink and steal the moon is the gradual warmth and friendship that grows between grumpy Gru and his troublesome orphans, which manages to give the film some foundations to build upon. In fact, the final quarter of the film seems to click into place – before the obligatory musical finale, of course – and the reward is a spectacular voyage into 3D space where the film makes use of those nifty specs. Flying aboard Gru’s noisy jet at 60,000 feet really is impressive, but it’s all too little too late, in a film that will come to rest in the bargain bins of Blockbuster instead of the hearts of a generation.