Me and My Nine Iron

July 26, 2010

Despicable Me review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been called a f*!&@# by someone I consider a dear friend because Despicable Me is somehow not able to be compared to Up due to being different genres within the animation category. Another friend immediately called for “the old Bryan bombs” to be had at this friend, but having matured, I instead wondered what movies this friend found to be comparable if these two cannot be.

This all came up because I had asked another friend if he liked this movie more than Up, and he said yes. The friend I went to go see this with also agreed, but I’m here to let you know that you can chalk this up as a classic case of liking the more recent product due to short-term memory.

Despicable Me was another solid animated film worth watching, having both its laugh-out-loud moments and emotionally touching moments. Steve Carell really carried this movie like George Clooney carried Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his accent throughout sure impressed me. (Can’t wait for Dinner for Schmucks.)

But this post isn’t about how the movie was–it was good, no doubt–but how it stacked up next to last year’s Best Animated Feature Film or rather, how it doesn’t in my list of ten things to grade in an animated movie.

  • Story

Most importantly, the storyline was shallow. Gru spends the entire movie trying to convince the audience that he wants to be the world’s top villain, but you’re never convinced and don’t really care if he is or not.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up my notion perfectly, “”there’s nothing in this to engage an audience. Obviously, no one cares if this guy gets to remain as the world’s top bad guy. Nor is this situation inherently amusing in a character way or even interesting in a satirical or sardonic way. There is simply nothing here, except a pretext for lots of labored, slapstick spy-versus-spy type shenanigans between the two ‘villains.’ Twenty minutes into “Despicable Me,” nothing has happened.”

In Up, you feel for Carl’s story and his attempt to fulfill his wife’s dream. Plus, when you team up Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, you’ll nab a handful of nods for Best Screenplay at Critics Awards. (Between the two of them, they wrote Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and WALL-E.)

Edge: Up.

  • Great moments/scenes.

There wasn’t a great moment or scene you could take out of the movie. And, that “Box of Shame” was such a rip off of Up‘s “Cone of Shame.”

A.O. Scott of the New York Times agrees, “while there’s nothing worth despising, there’s not much to remember either.”

Edge: Up.

  • Voices

Except for Carell, the star-studded cast was kind of disappointing, considering I could still hear Carl and Russell having a pleasant conversation in my head from the relatively star-less cast of Up. That goes for you, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristin Wiig, Jemaine Clement, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Ken Jeong. Carell almost single-handedly stole the show, but not quite.

Edge: Up.

  • Illumination Entertainment vs. Pixar Animation Studios

After finding out its production budget, it makes me wonder if the art was really second-rate work. Most animated movies cost roughly $150-200 million. Toy Story 3 cost $200 million; Up $175 million. If you stay until the credits at the end of an animated movie, you’d be surprised at the hundreds of artists and hundreds more involved than in a regular movie, which may be even more surprising considering the final product ends up being played and directed on a computer. But to give you Despicable Me‘s number, it’s $69 million.

I’m just as curious as you are. If you’re able to cut some exorbitant costs somehow and keep the quality up, more power to you, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The difference must surely be the quality of work done by Pixar. When you watch a Pixar work, it’s scary how realistic and detailed these characters are, from Russell’s ever-so-light freckles to the creases on 78-year-old Carl’s forehead.

Edge: Pixar.

  • Hardware, box-office and critical success.

Against five Academy Award nominations, including only the second animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, 1991), and two wins in an absolutely stacked animated year, Despicable Me might struggle even getting a nod, with Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After the favorites in just the first half of the year.

Up is the third-highest grossing Pixar film (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3), which really says a lot with over $731 million worldwide, $293 million of it domestically. Despicable Me has yet to open in the big international markets and is still rolling at $161 million domestically ($23.7 million this weekend) but would need a miracle to find an international audience like Up did.

Per IMDb, Up is in 8+ territory, which is a guaranteed great, while Despicable Me sits just outside the cherished land. Up is also the T-72 best movie ever.

Edge: Up.

  • Gru vs. Carl

Primarily because of the story (see above), Carl’s character is much more emotionally driven than Gru’s.

Edge: Carl.

  • Three girls vs. Russell

Yes, the girls’ story in getting adopted is much more important, but they never really connect with the main character the way Russell does.

Edge: Russell.

  • Minions vs. Dogs

The minions almost stole the show, which doesn’t say a lot about our main character. There were entire scenes of the minions doing something that added no part to the story whatsoever but were there for comedic effect, which says something about the story, but they were funnier than the annoying dogs.

Edge: Minions

  • Hans Zimmer/Pharrell (of N.E.R.D.) vs. Michael Giacchino

The Academy Award winner for The Lion King (1994) and the 72nd smartest person in the world (look it up) with insane credits (The Dark Knight and Inception to name his last two) and an amazing record producer made a really upbeat, banging hit, but if you could make me cry as soon as I hear your song playing, you’ve done something right.

Edge: Giacchino, who won an Oscar for this score.

  • Kid appeal

After all, this is an animated movie. I’d bet kids enjoyed Up much more than Despicable Me. Why? The balloon house floating away is more exciting, it was faster-paced, the kids loved the dogs and it was more action-packed. There were a few unfunny moments in Despicable Me, where I was thinking, “Wow, this must be painful for a little kid to sit through.”

Plus, remember when the Pixar employee flew to the sick kid’s home to grant her last wish to watch the movie on the unreleased DVD, and she died soon after? I’m tearing up just reading it again. Point, Pixar.

Edge: Up.

Your winner, 9-1. I rest my case.

Oh, and here’s Despicable Me‘s…

Rating: 4 stars out of 4




  1. Great post!!!:-P

    burn notice 4th season

    Comment by Advarrage — August 10, 2010 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  2. No, Ja-Hon did. Christian’s the one I asked.

    Comment by Bryan — July 26, 2010 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  3. haha. Did christian call u a fag? Anyways, i have no desire to see this movie cuz the lovable Evil Guy movie has already been perfected in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog.

    Comment by dan — July 26, 2010 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

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