Sunday, 10 October 2010

Starfish reviews: Despicable Me (2D)

First off, let me start by saying I take issues with the title (you will see why soon). The 'Despicable Me' in question refers to the films main protagonist, a super-villain by name of Gru, formerly the worlds leading villain, but has now become something of a laughing stock among the world of villainy. In order to reclaim his former glory Gru sets out on a mission to acquire a shrink-ray from his rival, the mathlete nerd Vector, and by doing so, shrink and steal the moon.

The film itself is animated by a tiny special-effects studio in France, by name of Mac Guff. No leading company like Pixar or Dreamworks, most of their work up until now has focused on adverts and music videos. But by teaming up with Universal Pictures, who have had a particularly successful year with big names like Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim and Get Him To The Greek, they've pulled off a feature-length film with big names like Steve Carrell (Gru), and Russell Brand (Doctor Nethario).

My issues, however, with the title are based around the first word – Gru is far from despicable. Although apparently an evil genius who has staged many infamous crimes, Gru never comes across as particularly evil – yes, he wears black, lives in a dark crooked house and affects an Eastern-European accent, but throughout the film he appears more Doctor Evil than Doctor Lecter.

Which I suppose is the point. After all, it is an animated film for all the family, and a film for all the family couldn't possibly run the risk of glamorising crime to impressionable kids. Hence the stew-pot plot of cliches and comic-book-stereotypes, lovable misfits with a secret heart of gold just waiting to be melted by three adorable orphans – the plot to steal the moon includes adopting three orphans to infiltrate Vectors lair, but in the process Gru eventually comes to care for these kids, and rethink his villainous ways.

Wait …. the villain eventually decides to choose the good life and make up for all his wrongdoings? Haven't we seen this before? Oh yes, in The Grinch, Austin Powers: Goldmember, (even freakin Star Wars if you count Vader apologising at the end) and plenty over re-workings on the same idea. The idea of the good in all of us, and the impossibility of the bad-guy actually triumphing for a change.

To me, this is all a little too whimsical for my liking. And, as I've pointed out, this is hardly new ground. After watching the trailer I was hoping for a fresh take on the bad-guy plot – 'a film that focuses on the villains motivations, and not the good guy? Yes!', I thought. But no, the film acts more as a vehicle for the cute moral fable of 'following your heart' than anything else, a certain crowd-pleaser for kids and adults looking for light entertainment. As for me, I'm going to go and watch The Killer Inside Me again – a bad guy film with some real bite.

Related stuff: Invader Zim, Austin Powers, The Grinch

Directing – 6/10

Writing – 4/10

Acting – 8/10 – high marks for Carells admittedly entertaining OTT voice as Gru

Overall – 6/10

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