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Friday, March 11, 2011

Catching Up on Movies : DESPICABLE ME Entertaining, if Predictable

Click here to see trailer
Though lacking the originality or the emotional appeal of either Toy Story 3 or Monsters, Inc., still, Despicable Me is a fun ride, featuring a brilliant performance by Steve Carell.

For film specifics, see the IMDB entry.

For a sampling of critical opinion, see below.

A. O. Scott of the New York Times

Is there a meaningful distinction to be drawn between exercising the imagination and just making up a bunch of stuff? When it comes to children at play, probably not: the pleasure of inventiveness matters more than the quality of the particular inventions. But children’s entertainment, made by grown-ups at great expense in anticipation of even greater profit, is another matter. The difference between inspired creation and frantic pretending is the difference between magic and mediocrity, between art and junk, or to cite a conveniently available example, between “Toy Story 3” and “Despicable Me.”

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and produced by Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment — a new player in the lucrative and competitive world of feature animation — “Despicable Me” cannot be faulted for lack of trying. If anything, it tries much too hard, stuffing great gobs of second-rate action, secondhand humor and warmed-over sentiment into every nook and cranny of its relentlessly busy 3-D frames.

The few moments of genuine visual or verbal wit — a bit of delicate minion slapstick that recalls the antics of Scrat in the “Ice Age” movies; a line reading that showcases Mr. Carell’s unparalleled deadpan — only highlight the paucity of real originality or artistic confidence. So much is going on in this movie that, while there’s nothing worth despising, there’s not much to remember either.

Kirk Honeycutt,  AP, in The Hollywood Reporter

"Despicable" doesn't measure up to Pixar at its best. Nonetheless, it's funny, clever and warmly animated with memorable characters. This first animated feature from Chris Meledandri's Illumination Entertainment since it set up shop at Universal in 2007 looks like an all-around winner. Made by French special effects house Mac Guff Ligne, the CGI cartoon starts a rollout in North America and some European territories next month that should pick up ample coin around the globe based on its appeal to all ages.

Where "Despicable" falls short of Pixar glory is its predictably. From moment to moment, one can never guess where a Pixar cartoon is headed. Here, it's all too clear. But individual sequences and fresh characters dreamed up by writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (from a story by executive producer Sergio Pablos) are quite wonderful.

The animation overseen by directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin gets an A for energy, imagination and color. And Gru might be the most interesting cartoon bad guy since "Ratatouille's" Angon Ego. Come to think of it, Ego had childhood issues, too.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times 

“Despicable Me” lacks a franchise to ride into town on, but it may establish one. I'm not sure how Gru can think up anything more sensational than stealing the moon, but I'm sure Dr. Nefario is working on that as we speak. The film is funny, energetic, teeth-gnashingly venomous and animated with an eye to exploiting the 3-D process with such sure-fire techniques as a visit to an amusement park.

The sad thing, I am forced to report, is that the 3-D process produces a picture more dim than it should be. “Despicable Me” is technically competent and nowhere near the visual disaster that is “The Last Airbender,” but take my word for it: Try to find it in 2-D. Or, if you see it in 3-D, check out the trailers online to see how bright and cheery it would look in 2-D. How can people deceive themselves that 3-D is worth paying extra for?
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian

Here is an amiable animated comedy that has had a wildly enthusiastic response in the US. This baffles me a little. It is a perfectly agreeable family entertainment, but not exactly original and nowhere near Pixar's great creations.