By: Addison Wylie
“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.” -Mugatu (Will Ferrell) in Zoolander
Despicable Me is one of those movies where the glowing feedback is flabbergasting. What is it about this film that clicked with so many audiences? It helps that the film is geared towards families with younger children but still, what are families finding so charming about this film in particular? The writing is below pedestrian and the animation is as lazy as lazy gets but, somehow, audiences have seemed to disregard this all together. It may have clicked with families but it didn’t click with me. Not since Doogal have I seen an animated film “call it in” so badly. Animated features depend on three major building blocks; the writing, the direction, and the animation itself and all thee categories are handled terribly. Whether it’s aimed towards a younger audience or not, Despicable Me is dreadfully awful.
Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, is known for his dastardly schemes. He’s mean, rude, short tempered, and gets what he wants. When a competing, much younger super villain named Vector, voiced by Jason Segel, is on the prowl, Gru is immediately shaken up. It shakes him up even more to find out that Vector was the one who stole pyramids without anyone noticing; a heist that will be remembered for years. Without hesitation, Gru reports to his mad scientist colleague Dr. Nefario, voiced by Russell Brand, and his multiple minions that he has a plan up his sleeves. Gru plans on inventing a shrink ray that will enable him to shrink and capture the moon! After being turned down by the Evil Bank and Vector stealing the final product of the shrink ray, Gru’s hopes start to run dry. However, Gru’s dreams are restored when he meets three little orphan girls who can easily distract Vector with their cookie selling abilities. It’s then where Gru immediately adopts the girls and devises a plan unbeknownst to the youngsters.
By reading the synopsis, the film sounds promising. It’s saddening that the screenwriters and the director can’t live up to that bar. Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul write a script that is very light on pop culture references, and I appreciate that notion, however, all the jokes still manage to be unoriginal and unfunny. The synopsis is screamingly original but the situations themselves are things we’ve seen in past kids movies or action movies. This wouldn’t be a problem if the film decided to satirize these spy movie and kid friendly tropes but the film does nothing new with the material. Audiences may fall head over heels for the cute, pill shaped minions. The minions barely speak and when they do, it’s garbled gibberish. This would be a great chance for the screenwriters and the directors to utilize effective slapstick, physical comedy. The team manages to fail here too. Every scene with the minions either ends with another minion looking unimpressed and slapping another character or the joke ends with throwaway potty humor. It also doesn’t help that directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have seemed to ask their actors to yell every line or express each emotion with extreme exaggeration. The film does manage to do a good job hiding the voices well. We aren’t distracted by the celebrity vocals and each character sounds different. However, when each person is beating you over the head with the punch line, the jokes flop and become grating early on in the movie.
The writing and the direction may deteriorate fast but the animation is the stand out here as being some of the most unforgiving animation this year. Pixar films and Dreamworks Animation are looked at in awe because those artists have a great sense of detail and are able to make their images cartoony but realistic at the same time. I’m not comparing Despicale Me to any of the accomplishments Pixar or Dreamworks have but moreorless using their work as examples of how animators take their job seriously. The animation portrayed during Despicable Me is almost all made up of round shapes. Usually artists would use a round shape to start the base of their character or set design and elaborate from there but the animation team here doesn’t go past drawing circles. Everything here is very smooth too. There’s no evidence of any sort of texture or shading. It’s the three dimensional equivalent to stick people. I understand animation is a time consuming art form, and this animation may have been forgiven if the film had some heart behind it. But, in the end, it lacks warmth and the images come across as cheap and rushed.
It’s a shame when it seems like animated films are just churned out and no thought has been put behind the project. It’s also a bummer when a film pulls out all the stops before it’s out of the gate. Despicable Me had a great premise but the writers, the directors, and the animation team take advantage of the original scenario and make it predictable, lame, and boring. If this is the way Universal Studios wants to make animated movies, then I’m very disappointed.