Universal's Despicable Me is exactly what I expected out of a non-PIXAR animated summer release, though perhaps a bit funnier than it should be.
Despicable Me's hero is Gru, a villain. He doesn't want world domination or to kill thousands of innocent people however. All he wants really, is some respect. Gru is easy to empathize with, and Steve Carell really brings him to life, perhaps more than anyone else could. I usually don't care for big celebrities in voice acting roles but Carell does a very good job with Gru, giving him a humorous eastern European accent that works.
He decides that if he were to pull off something major, he would get the respect he deserves. So naturally, he decides to steal the moon. This would be easy if didn't have to worry about a new rising super-nerd/villain named Vector (Jason Segel). Vector has the Shrink Ray Gru requires to shrink the moon, and the only way into his lair is through the use of some orphaned girls. The rest of the movie follows as a predictable, formulaic story about Gru's heart warming through these girls.
Universal opted not to advertise the girls as the main characters but guess what; they are. Voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher, they are some of the best voice actors in the movie. Elsie Fisher plays her character with a level of adorability that I haven't heard in a long time. As a result, she totally owns every single one of her gags, and I think audiences will leave with the happiest memories of her character. Fisher, Carell, and surprisingly enough Russell Brand are the best voice actors in the movie, in that order. I say surprisingly to Brand because he did something I rarely hear outside of a non-PIXAR animated movie. He actually voice acted. He wasn't 'crazy old Russell Brand'. His character, Dr. Nefario is actually a character, and Brand does a voice. It sounds like something that should go without saying, but these days with releases like Kung Fu Panda and Shark Tale, studios seem to get off to the idea that big actors can just act like themselves, and then they will be turned into animated, lovable characters. This is not so. Think about Linguini from Ratatouille. One of the most lovable animated characters in a long time, and all Lou Romano did was play the character. We have the same here from Brand. He makes me prouder in every movie.
Here's something you've never heard me say; I didn't like Segel. He seemed to cop out by doing a generic nerd voice and constantly shouting "OH YEAH!" I swear to god if he said it one more time, I would have thrown something at the screen. Catch phrases can work, but only if they are good.
Perhaps I would have liked this movie more if Toy Story 3 were not the last animated movie I had seen before it, but in terms of story, Despicable Me is truly nothing spectacular. It is logical and clear cut, but it contains only your average amount of heart, and the characters, with the exception of Gru are pretty flat.
Despite all this, the movie is very funny. And what's pleasant about the comedy is that it pulls off almost all the jokes without going so low as to steal pop culture gags. This is something fresh for animation, and I liked it. Fisher's Agnes is absolutely adorable and makes you laugh every time she talks. Gru's thousands of minions, voiced by directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, are also hilarious. What's funnier is that Gru apparently knows all their names, and though they speak in a hilarious gibberish language, their names are things like Stuart and Dave.
The other reason I give this movie a 3 rather than a 2 is because of the gorgeous animation and rendering. I liked the visual style very much. I didn't see it in 3D (shocker, I know) and I'm glad I didn't. I'm sure the rollercoaster scene would have been gimmicky and horrible. It pulled me in plenty, it didn't need the extra layer of bull. Heitor Pereira's score is also very memorable, and I've actually been waiting to hear him score something on his own for a while. Well done.
Despicable Me is a good enough movie for you not to be upset you spent money on it. But by no means is it as memorable as How to Train Your Dragon or any PIXAR movie. And it certainly doesn't flop the level of failure of Monsters vs Aliens or Shrek 3. It's not the best movie of the summer, but it's certainly not despicable.