“Despicable Me” is anything but
If the year’s Oscars were held today, animated films would certainly dominate the favorites for best picture and make the best animated film category a real horse race. Certainly “Despicable Me,” with its edgier tone and teenager-appealing soundtrack would be in the discussion because while not better than the hugely successful “Toy Story 3” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” it has a witty off-kilter charm of its own. Oh, and those minions.
In this case, the minions are the scads of goggle-wearing, endearingly rambling little helpers of Gru, an oversized super villain voiced with a heavy eastern European accent by Steve Carrell. In one of the film’s minor but important elements, none of the characters are recognizable to the star actors who give them voice-not necessarily required in this genre but certainly evidence of outside-the-box thinking.
Gru has had some evil success with his freeze gun and other endeavors, which include stealing the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower (the Las Vegas versions!). But his archrival Vector (Jason Segel) has pilfered the Great Pyramid, upstaging him. So Gru has his sights, and those of his Shrink Ray gun, aimed squarely at the moon. But financing is tough these days, even for make believe bad guys, so he must come up with a scheme to get the funding to allow his genius inventor Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and the little minions (think munchkin-sized yellow vitamins) to get to work.
Enter three darling orphans (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher), who not only help Gru, but zap the Grinch out of him in the process and give “Despicable Me” more tender moments than a crowded nursery at nap time.
With a hip-hop lite soundtrack assist from Pharrell Williams, and a few neat visual tricks (including a rollercoaster ride made pretty real by the 3D treatment), “Despicable Me’ is a sharply written and not overly frantic film that seems to have Looney Tunes in its genes and saves its surprisingly touching moments for just the right times.
Rated: PG for rude humor and mild action.