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Despicable Me: It Should Have Been As Self Deprecating As The Title…

By Megan Lane · July 12, 2010

You know when you see a trailer with a line as simple as “It’s so fluffy!” and you’re laughing hysterically and already quoting the movie as you drive up to the theater?  You’re so excited and don’t think there’s any possible way that you could not LOVE this movie? And then you sit down in the theater, popcorn in hand, filled with anticipation and slowly realize all the funny lines were in the trailer?  This was Despicable Me in a nutshell.

The plot is actually really original.  After a new super-villain, Vector (Jason Segal), steals a pyramid, struggling villain, Gru (Steve Carrell), must get back on the map by stealing the moon.  In order to obtain a shrinking machine, he adopts three little girls from an orphanage to use as a decoy.  However, slowly but surely, the girls worm their way into Gru’s heart, changing him forever.

The world created by writers Sergio Pablos, Ken Daurio, and Cinco Paul was something we haven’t seen before.  Gru lives in a normal neighborhood, goes to Starbucks in the morning and deals with little girls trying to sell him cookies.  Though the idea of giving super-villains heart is something that’s slowly coming into popularity (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), what was really interesting was that Gru’s arch-nemesis was not a super-hero, but another super-villain. There was not force of good to be reckoned with, this is a world where there is a constant battle between super-villains to pull off the biggest heist, and the only force that can stop them is each other.

Still this world could have been greatly expanded upon.  Are there other super-villains?  Do normal people know who the super-villains are?  If so, are authorities too afraid to do anything about it?  We are simply asked to accept this world without any explanation or real rules.

However, the main problem was the lack of character development.  We see several flashbacks to Gru’s relationship with his mother that really tells us nothing as to why he became a super-villain.  Yes, she was unsupportive, but did that drive him to become a super-villain? Does he want to steal the moon because he’s fulfilling his dream of becoming an astronaut or because he knows he’ll make a lot of money? There’s a lot of contradictory information on Gru.

Vector, despite being Gru’s arch-nemesis, caused very little conflict throughout the story.  Gru seems to have little trouble defeating him and even in the final fight, Vector is more of a screw-up than Gru. He’s more concerned with his silly inventions, like a piranha gun, and it’s hard to see what actually makes him a threat to not only Gru, but the world.

However, the shining light in the movie were the girls.  Gru’s adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and especially Agnes (Elsie Fisher), stole our hearts as easily as they stole Gru’s. It was clear that one of the writers has daughters, because they absolutely nailed the personalities of little girls ages four, seven and ten.

And the minions were clearly created to market to little girls ages four, seven and ten.  As I said before, the best jokes were in the trailer and the rest of the movie skewed a little young.  A simple punch-up at a roundtable would have done wonders for this script.  The set-ups were long and without a huge pay-off at the end, which can probably be attributed to young directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud.

What the movie really proved is what a huge machine Pixar has created. Coming out less than a month after Toy Story 3, the standards set for Despicable Me were unreasonably high.  However, it just proved what a young company Illumination Entertainment really is. They are clearly not ready to compete with Pixar or even Dreamworks Animation.  Theyhave potential, but it looks like it might take a few features to get their footing in a very competitive field.  All in all, the concept was great, but it felt like I was watching a first draft.

Oh, and p.s. the 3D is totally not worth it.