"Despicable Me" stars the vocal stylings of Steve Carell and Jason Segel in a story about a super villain's aspirations for greatness run aground by three adorable orphans left on his doorstep. Unfortunately, the story that unspools lacks the heart, brains or humor you would expect from such talented men.
Carell gives voice to Gru, who with his pointed nose, the dark circles around his eyes and ridiculous pan-Eastern European accent is the bastard son of Charles Addams and Boris Badenov. The product of an absent father and a never-satisfied mother, Gru just wants to be the best at what he does: evil. The voice works, and Carell holds it throughout, as silly as it is, but there's just not enough surrounding it.
Gru is aided in his evildoing by a seemingly endless band of "Minions." Shaped like little yellow pills, sporting overalls and speaking in an indecipherable squeak, they're everywhere. Some lucky toy manufacturer will no doubt sell a ka-jillion of these things, but one can't help wondering, "Why do they keep hitting each other?" Having watched our share of "The Three Stooges," we get that gratuitous violence can be funny. But it helps to know why Moe is grabbing Curly's nose with a pair of pliers.
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Segel is tragically wasted. What little of him we get is amusing, but after promoting a film about two villains vying for supremacy, what we get is a story about Gru's cold heart being melted by sweet little kids, while Segel's vector spends most of his time sucking on a Slurpie and playing Wii by himself.
The humor is pretty lowbrow (even the 9-year-old we brought along thought so), with lots of slapstick, pratfalls, a fart joke or two... Yes, there are a couple of amusing sight gag's -- including a shot at the newly vilified Lehman Brothers -- but not nearly enough to keep a grown-up engaged.
The animation is just OK, it lacks the richness that Pixar has shown to be possible time and again. As for the 3D, it comes off feeling like a stunt, from the stomach-churning roller-coaster ride to the interminable shenanigans of the Minions during the closing credits, it doesn't feel organic. It's as though the film were waving its arm yelling, "Hey, look at me!"
"Despicable Me" isn't bad, far from it. It's just nowhere near what it could've been or should've been. Like a fast-food burger, it'll get you through the afternoon, but you're unlikely to remember it fondly.
"Despicable Me" goes into wide release July 9