Despicable Me (2010)

Despicable Me (2010) — Cute. I was not enthusiastically enthralled in the plot of this film, but it was cute. It seems to me that Pixar is constantly raising the bar for family entertainment while dreck like the Alvin and the Chipmunks “Squeakquel” is constantly lowering it. Then you have the rest. Movies that have a certain level of charm but don’t aspire to be anything more than diversion. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, really.  We all need diversion. It’s just that nowadays I tend to prefer my diversion in less kid-friendly ways. The family movies I like seem to go one of two ways: the Pixar route of having great characters and stories or the Dreamworks route of loading your movies with enough pop culture jokes that will sail over the heads of younger audience members. Despicable Me doesn’t really fit into either category (despite one great Lehman Brothers joke) but it manages to skate by, mostly on the aforementioned cuteness. Most of this comes in the form of three little girls who are for some reason adopted by a supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell).  The phrase “for some reason” seems to come up a lot when summarizing movies like this. Of course being a family movie Gru does things that may be wicked but never quite go full-on evil, because of course redemption awaits him at the end of this story. There’s also a bunch of little yellow slapstick minions. They’re supposed to be funny a lot more than they are, but they’re good for some chuckles. There’s also a somewhat half-baked subplot involving Gru’s own childhood which never really amounts to much. The film is in 3D, like pretty much all cartoons these days. It doesn’t really use the effect to create any great depth to the images like Up, nor does it wow us with spectacle like How to Train Your Dragon. But it doesn’t hurt the film at all and makes for a couple of moments when stuff is popping out of the screen and little kids reach out to touch it.  That always makes me smile. It may not be a great work of art but that’s one thing this movie does a lot: makes you smile.

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