Rewind Review: Despicable Me

Probably the hallmark of Despicable Me is that it has great sight gags and they will hit you very frequently indeed. Whether through dialogue or by visuals this film will have you laughing one way or another and that kind of persistence is something you have to love. It is a surprisingly good film because you may have thought it revealed all the tricks up its sleeve over the year plus Universal has been promoting it but there is more in store believe me.
It is also a film that asks you to take things at face value. It will not bend over backwards to establish this is the universe in which our story exists but instead will show you it. It may be challenging for adults who have to willfully suspend disbelief while children will gladly do so. One thing to keep in mind is that the inciting incident of this film is the discovery that a pyramid has been stolen and been replaced by an inflatable. In a world where such a thing can happen nearly anything can like orphans selling cookies, same-day adoption, shrink rays, etc.

A standout feature of the film was the score and particularly the “Despicable Me” theme song sung by Pharrell Williams. Heitor Pereira has long been making valuable contributions to film scores but his work on this film might be his calling card in the future.

Despicable Me (2010, Universal)

Despite the fact that the names of the actors were heavily advertised as well, the cast does a fantastic job of becoming invisible and blending in to their characters. Examples being Russell Brand who plays the elderly assistant Dr. Nefario. Miranda Cosgrove who plays Margo the oldest girl and you do even stop thinking about Steve Carell as Gru and just see Gru.

This is a film the effectively incorporates flashbacks to illustrate who Gru is on more than one occasion so we can see what his motivation for his lunatic plan is and why he feels he must do it but we also take the journey and start to see his change of heart. It is a film that also finds an extra villain, at least a temporary one, in a somewhat unexpected place.

The film really is ingenious on a number of fronts with its gadgets and gizmos, aforementioned sight gags, with the whole plot about the moon but especially with the creation of the minions. You get here the rare thing created in animation that just you can’t quite classify, you know not what language they speak or where they’re from but they’re just there and it’s great.

Despicable Me (2010, Universal)

The creativity and the quality of this film again illustrates how the animated feature is flourishing. About the only thing you can hold against the film is that Gru doesn’t explain that he didn’t call the orphanage, you understand he is torn at the moment but considering the character he is dealing with she could’ve been even more forceful in taking them back leaving him feeling worse.

Even with that Despicable Me is a joy to watch from start to finish and one of the summer’s most pleasant surprises and was, overall, a more throughly enjoyable experience than Toy Story 3. This film will likely be the most entitled to feel robbed should the Academy’s love affair with Pixar continue.
8/10

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Review- Hop

Hop (Universal)

Hop is a funny and entertaining enough film that tries to assert itself as the go-to movie for the Easter holiday and for lack of any real competition, at least for the moment, it just may get to be that. In the end though I wish that considering the likelihood they’d take that mantle by default they tried a little harder to create more of their own inventions. Many of the affectations of the story are merely transposed from Christmas traditions and modified to fit Easter motifs. There certainly were other twists like chicks working in the factory and being underlings such that an egg sleigh with chicks flying it rings kind of hollow.

While it is an enjoyable journey and the ending is ultimately satisfying there’s also a bit of a cop out on the frame. If you think about it the film has to have the resolution it does but it just begs the question why create the frame in the first place? Why not just save that information and have it come as a surprise? It’s a case where simpler would work better.

What does work in this film is firstly the overall plot conceived by Carlos (Hank Azaria) a chick in the factory to try and usurp power. It works both dramatically and comedically thanks to Hank Azaria who is one of the best voice over actors currently working, due in large part to the fact that you don’t automatically know it’s Azaria voicing a role when you hear it.

Truth be told the same must be said for Russell Brand’s portrayal of E.B. I’d seen the preview probably a trabillion times and hadn’t figured out it was him. Thankfully, Brand allows the situations to create the comedy and just plays the character and is rather straight about it much of the time as well so it ends up being a choice that works.

In terms of the live action performances James Marsden turns in good portrayal of an unfortunately named character (Fred O’Hare). This name made even more frustrating by the fact that some of the family scenes were the better jokes and ideas are in the film. Many of these scenes were stolen by Gary Cole, who is hilarious as always.

What really stands out in the film is the animation work, more so on E.B than on the Pink Berets but particularly the combination of it and live action elements which there hasn’t really been too much of. It’s not necessarily a quantum leap in the subgenre but it’s definitely a most pleasant progression.

Hop is an enjoyable and passable way to kill some time even for an adult like me, which is not that much different than a kid, though kids may like it quite a bit more than I did.

6/10