First of all, if you can, catch this in 3D. It is spectacular.
All kinds of thingys and gadgets poke at you or look as if they’re drifting off the screen. In films like Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, the extra dimension has been an enhancement. Three dimensions add to this one and it won’t be nearly as interesting without.
And stick around for the outtakes of the minions during the credits. They’re fun and funny.
Comedian Steve Carell voices Gru. Villainy is his line of work and — as the title notes — Gru is a not-so-nice person living in a gloomy old house with a cavernous vault below. There — with his many minions and an old, deaf scientist — he plots and schemes. Gru is aging and has lost a step and is on a bit of a losing streak.
While the younger, faster, smarter and better Vector snatched one of Egypt’s pyramids, all Gru managed to do was the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. But they’re replicas in Las Vegas, not the real deal.
Not wanting to be outdone by the upstart, Gru plans to steal the moon. To get the moon, he needs to steal a shrink ray and get some money to build a rocket. He goes to the Bank of Evil — formerly Lehman Brothers (now that’s funny) — for financing but is rejected.
Gru manages to filch the shrink ray, but Vector steals it from him. He has to adopt three cute orphan girls to get it back.
The yellow, eraser-shaped minions provide comic relief and are a hoot, and the three kids are so cute you want to wrap them up and take them home with you. Kudos, too, for writers who resisted giving them modern, popular, techno-age names. They are plain and practical Margo, Edith and Agnes.
One interesting note is the design of the characters. Animators usually try to make the characters look at least a little bit like the actors voicing the part. Not here. Carell looks nothing like Gru, and Jason Segel, Ken Jeong and Julie Andrews don’t look anything like their characters.
But the real shocker is Russell Brand cast as the old, deaf scientist. Brand — who is a long-haired actor with model looks (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) — isn’t close.
Not that it matters. All do a wonderful job with a simple and straight-to-the-point script.
Animated features — as I’ve said a hundred times — used to be kids movies. Today they’re adult movies designed to attract kids. Like the current Toy Story, Despicable Me is a bit mature, slow in spots and lacking in action for the really little ones. Pre-teens, teens and adults, however, will eat it up.
The story is straight formula, and there are absolutely no surprises: an old curmudgeon’s life is forever changed by a) falling in love, b) finding the perfect pet or c) helping some kids. All sides of the subject have been done to death. It’s how you get from earth to the moon — in this case — that makes or breaks the premise.
While its moon isn’t exactly full, Despicable Me does manage to give you at least a little something to howl at.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG for some mature themes. It opens Friday, July 9 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.