Rated PG for rude humor and mild action, 95 minutes
Being evil has never been so much fun in "Despicable Me"
By now you have probably seen the ubiquitous ads for the energetic new animated movie "Despicable Me," with all those oddly amusing, peculiar yellow minions running amok. They nearly steal the wistful movie, but they're just part of all the fun about an evil scientist voiced by "The Office's" Steve Carell who adopts three young kids as part of his bigger plan to regain his footing as the world’s top villain. "Despicable Me" has enough stamina, good messages and laughs to keep everyone in the family engaged, even if some of the humor goes above the head of the young ones.
Carell is Gru, now the world's #2 villain behind his arch-nemesis Vector (Jason Segel) when Vector steals the world-famous Egyptian pyramids. Gru's new plan is to build a rocket and with the help from a shrink ray, steal the moon. His plan includes adopting, or more like kidnapping, three young precocious girls from Mrs. Hattie (Kristen Wiig)'s home: Margot (Miranda Cosgrove) and her sisters Edith and Agnes. With the help of the girls, his trusted scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and his legion of little yellow minions, Gru hopes to regain the #1 villain position; though in the process he becomes attached to the girls and realizes there’s more to life than being the top villain.
"Despicable Me" proves that being bad can be fun and ends up a sweet-natured, amusing occasionally peculiar look at the importance of family. It tries too hard, lacks heart particularly in the finale and is infused with too much adult humor, but its pleasant spirit is ingratiating. You can thank all those little yellow minions, who have most of the fun, not to mention the inspired voice work of a genuinely amusing comic actor in Carell (memorable moment: reading a bedtime story involving finger puppets). Segel ("How I Met Your Mother") isn't as recognizable but he too is a treat as Gru's arch child-like villain, who wears an orange track suit and keeps a shark swimming around his living room.
Brand, Wiig, Julie Andrews, Ken Jeong, Cosgrove, Jack MacBrayer and Will Arnett all lend serviceable voice support and the animation is solidly colorful though certainly not on the detailed level of any Pixar feature, which remains the gold standard in animation. "Despicable Me" is akin to "Shrek" in its bevy of adult humor, much of which the kids won't get, not to mention a little mean-spirited at times (they sure enjoy slapping and insulting each other). The movie is too slow in its mid-section and is too predictable down the stretch, but you’ll still leave the theater with a big smile.
Then there's the aforementioned minions, who nearly steal the movie from Carell every time they show up on screen. Inexplicably some have two eyes and others have one, and speak their own language, and they’re a genuinely odd visual at first but you get used to them. And stay over the credits for a humorous final episode from them. The animation is bright and simplistic, and the 3-D is unnecessary given the movie stands on its own fine without it.
You won't find many surprises in "Despicable Me," but it's a loony, enjoyable ride getting to the moon and back. Good thing the movie has the voice of Carell and those tiny minions, or it wouldn’t be near as much fun.