It’s wonderful when movies serendipitously converge with current events. But how often do current events play prelude to a coming cartoon?
Successful animation hasn’t been the calling card of the current do-nothing batch of Russian secret agents, milking Mother Russia for an American lifestyle. But successful animation is something achieved by “Despicable Me’.
Our Russian super-villain, Gru, is a sharp-snouted cross between Boris Badanov and the Grinch. He lives the typical suburban lifestyle of a gifted evildoer. He has a normal neighborhood home, if you happen to live in the Munsters’ neighborhood. Gru’s idea of interior decor comes from the Tower of London, circa 1670.
Gru has only one goal in his dark little heart: stealing the moon out of the sky, using a homemade rocket and a shrink-wrap ray-gun. He is missing a mouse and a squirrel; for a rival he only has a nerd called Vector. Helping him along is a slave race of little yellow overgrown Mike-and-Ikes, called “Minions.” When he adopts a threesome of cute little orphan girls to further his devious plan, can it be long before they capture his heart, as well? Gag.
“Despicable Me” is a referendum on the concept of “cute.” Is cute a good thing? In puppy dogs, sure. Is it a cinematic virtue? Well, it worked for ET. How about in family entertainment? The answer to that question depends on your tolerance for saccharine.
Fortunately, “Despicable Me” has more than sugar to spread on its cereal. The Universal release boasts a scoop of cleverness, too, as well as sunny visuals and a very good score by the great Hans Zimmer. Scattering humorous references for all ages, some of it will fly over younger children’s heads, such as a visual reference to ‘The Godfather’s” horse’s head scene. But for the most part, it works as a weekend baby-sitter.