One out of five stars
Rated PG/95 min.
Steve Carrell voices Gru, a super-villain who looks like a cross between Blofeld from the 007 movies and Uncle Fester from the Chester Gould Addams Family cartoons. Gru has spent his entire life committing crimes both small and epic and enjoys being single, wealthy and oh-so-evil. Until, that is, he takes in three adorable orphans as part of his latest plot and is thrown for a loop. The little rascals are supposed to melt Gru’s heart—and ours—but the whole setup is so poorly executed and contrived it’s impossible to invest emotion in it; or, for that matter, anything else on screen.
Carrell’s Gru is as ill-defined as the rest of the characters and his decision to play him with an unconvincing Russian accent was a mistake. You won’t believe his conversion from diabolical baddie to caring foster dad because no effort has been made to make him relatable or to create an interesting story around him. The script is actually pretty mean-spirited, and many scenes seem stolen directly from other, better animated films.
Meanwhile, Gru’s many minions, which resemble Corn Pops with glasses and mumble incoherently, are the focus of many scenes (you’ll recognize them from the ubiquitous trailers) but fail to deliver much comic zing. The bouncy music, fart jokes and nonstop fall-down-go-boom sight gags work hard to make you think you’re watching a comedy; all that’s missing are the laughs. OK, to be fair, kids may giggle. But this is one of those movies they’ll revisit in a few years, only to find their nostalgia lied to them.
The 3-D effects are very good, with lots of things flying into your face and a visually thrilling scene set on a roller coaster. It’s by far the best thing about the movie, which is a bad sign.
In addition to Carrell, Julie Andrews, Kristen Wiig, Jason Segal and other notable actors provide voices for throwaway characters. The filmmakers should have saved their money and hired unknowns or reliable character actors, like Pixar usually does. Speaking of which, the wonderful Toy Story 3 is still playing. You’d be much better served seeing that one again rather than wasting your time on this. It’s not a despicable movie, exactly—it’s too innocuous and forgettable for that. More like disposable.