Despicable Me (2010)

(In theaters, July 2010) Seeing Despicable Me a bit too soon after Toy Story 3, I can’t help but notice how thin it feels compared to Pixar’s instant classic: It’s much simpler visually and even more simplistic from a story standpoint.  The backgrounds feel empty, and the scatter-shot writing seems all too ready to sacrifice tone and continuity for cheap gags.  (Seeing that much of the film was developed in France, I wonder if some of this inconsistency is a cultural artifact.)  Fortunately, Despicable Me finds its worth in earned laughter: Some of the most absurd slapstick is ridiculously funny, while the entire film is so good-natured that it’s easy to keep a smile in-between the laughs.  I’m never too fond of kid characters, but the three girls who (very) gradually come to change the mad-scientist antihero’s mind are surprisingly likable, which makes the overused “bachelor finds his inner parenting abilities” sub-plot far more bearable than you’d expect.  The same goes for the minion creatures, who hold up far better than their “let’s have an iconic toy” origins may suggest.  Much of the 3D is unobtrusive to a 2D audience, at the exception of end-credit sequences that feel tacked-on after a rush decision to re-render the film in 3D.  Despicable Me may not be much of a classic, but it holds its own as an entertaining feature for the entire family.

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