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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


‘Despicable Me’ not so despicable

In the shadows of Toy Story 3, Despicable Me knocks the Twilight Saga: Eclipse out of the number one spot in the box office. | Universal

Despicable Me will inevitably be compared to Toy Story 3 because A) it’s a 3D CGI movie released around the same time, and B) they are the only two movies I’ve seen in theaters this year.  I won’t go much further in the comparison than to say that I’ve melted the plastic twice to see Toy Story, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing Despicable Me more than once in theaters, especially not at $14 a pop.

That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.  It’s cute, funny, and exceptionally well animated — it was obviously intended to be seen in 3D — but it just wasn’t as good as Toy Story.  The few plot twists were predictable, and there was no sense of real conflict.  I never felt Gru’s nemesis to be very threatening, or that he would not find his soft side in the end.

The curmudgeonly Gru is a Russian-esque villain with mommy issues and a house in the ’burbs (granted, the lawn is dead and the interior furnished with taxidermied endangered animals). While waiting in line at The Bank of Evil – formerly Lehman Brothers – Gru gets himself crosswise with Vector, a Bill Gates doppelganger with a fetish for fish-filled firearms.  Vector, who calls himself such because his crimes have “both direction and magnitude,” has stolen the Great Pyramid, thereby usurping Gru as greatest supervillain in the world.  It also turns out he is the bank president’s son, with the game stacked in his favor.

Gru apparently lacks the unlimited funds of most supervillains, because he is at the bank to take out a loan to steal the moon, a dream he’s had since watching Apollo 11 land.

The bank president, who bears a striking resemblance to Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss, demands Gru produce a shrink ray as down payment. Off to North Korea goes Gru to steal the shrink ray, but Vector (surprise, surprise) appears and nabs the gun for himself.

To get the gun back, Gru adopts Agnes, Edith, and Margo from Miss Hattie’s Home for Orphan Girls.  Vector had bought cookies from them, and Gru plans to re-nab the gun while the girls distract him.  The plan works – barely – and off goes the pseudo-family in Gru’s evilmobile to a theme park for some reluctant bonding.

Gru then returns to the bank with the shrink ray, but is denied the loan because he is not related to the president.  No matter.  Gru, his aurally challenged sidekick Dr. Nefario, and their yellow minions — whose behavior bears a strong resemblance to the pill bugs in A Bug’s Life —build a rocket anyway.  It’s a jalopy, but it flies, and they did it together.  So sweet.

Problem is, he planned to take over the moon the same day Margo, Agnes, and Edith have a dance recital.  Rather than mess with emotions and affection, he sends the girls back to Miss Hattie’s, rockets into space in a pink space suit and proceeds to shrink the moon.  Floating with the shrunken orb in his hand, he feels a strong pang of remorse.

Gru then turns around and makes it to the dance recital in time to watch Vector kidnap them. I won’t give the rest away, but you can probably guess it ends happily.  Unfortunately, the ending is rather pat and cliche, but it’s hard not to feel happy for Gru and the girls when they come to realize how much they mean to each other.  Anything less would be positively villainous.

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