Review: “Despicable Me”

Steve Carell tries his hand at anti-heroics.

Gru (Steve Carell) being despicable

Universal Pictures

Gru (Steve Carell) being despicable

Tony Libera

âÄúDespicable MeâÄù Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand Rated: PG Showing at: Area theaters Take a deep breath; it looks like 3D movies are here to stay. You can blame Mark Cuban (âÄúItâÄôs the LSD of 2009!âÄù) or even James Cameron , but the sad fact is that studios are chomping at the bit to pump out 3D pictures. While studios like Pixar use the technology for roundness, others send boundless crap flying at you as homage to the early âÄô90s. Such is the case with âÄúDespicable Me,âÄù UniversalâÄôs first entry into the CG game, which breezes over quality storytelling in favor of overblown visuals. Our introduction to the main character, Gru (Steve Carell), is a telling one: he sees a child drop his ice cream cone on the sidewalk and so makes a balloon animal for the boy, only to pop it in his face. This is the kind of guy who not only revels in human misery, but goes out of his way to inflate it at every possible turn. ItâÄôs no surprise to us then that this Penguin-esque good-for-nothing is a supervillain, one obsessed with pulling the greatest heist of all time. The plan is to take the moon, but first Gru must steal a shrink ray. This task proves easy enough for the skilled veteran, until a younger villain named Vector (Jason Segel) swoops in, nabs the device and retreats to his impenetrable suburban fortress. Gru finds out that Vector has a sweet tooth, so he takes in three cookie-selling orphan girls whom he thinks can get past his enemyâÄôs defenses. ThatâÄôs when things get complicated for the old s.o.b. ItâÄôs a clever move by the screenwriters, placing the nefarious Gru in a position where he must keep these three girly girls content, ripe with possibilities, but the execution detracts from the story. Plot points are hyper-telegraphed from the outset, leaving little for the audience to actually discover. WeâÄôre not shocked by any of GruâÄôs moves or by his inevitable, way-too-abrupt change, and his value as a dynamic character suffers as a result. ItâÄôs hard to determine who âÄúDespicable MeâÄù is actually geared toward. On the one hand, itâÄôs laden with silly sight gags that are clearly intended for the kiddies, but it also focuses on the trials of parenthood and features humor that only appeals to middle-aged mothers âÄî Steve CarellâÄôs ambiguously Russian accent being the most notable example. The voice is ridiculous enough on its own, but it becomes cringe-worthy due to the oversaturation of outdated and misused American slang. The film gets stuck in an odd place, reaching for the funny bones of mother hens while their kids groan with embarrassment. This brings us back to the 3D in âÄúDespicable Me,âÄù which has actually been praised by some critics, furthering speculation that the older generation is actually enamored by this obtrusive technology. The filmmakers use 3D to bombard us with images, culminating in an unnecessary credit segment where GruâÄôs minions battle to see who can get the farthest outside the frame. It might be a fun addition had we not experienced this sensation a hundred times before. Instead, itâÄôs annoying and hardly worth the extra fee. Yet despite its many cons, âÄúDespicable MeâÄù does have moments that are genuinely funny and moving. Though it never comes close to even the worst of Pixar flicks, itâÄôs decent family fare with enough yuks to remain entertaining. Still, thereâÄôs a whole lot of wasted potential. 2/4 Stars