Despicable Me is a random product most likely born of endless, circular story meetings, yet the irony is that it could have used a few more meetings.
There is promise here – and some wildly inventive animated production design – but it’s lost in a jumble of haphazard gags, plot hiccups and indelicate grasps at emotion. The story centers on Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a grandiosely ambitious super villain who has recently been thwarted by a competing bad guy named Vector (Jason Segel). For elaborate reasons, Gru hatches a revenge scheme that involves adopting three little girls and stealing the moon. I’d smooth this over if I could.
Despicable Me has some good things – Vector’s ultra-mod lair, a thumping title track by Pharrell Williams – but even the sharp parts are in search of a cohesive narrative. There are times when the movie wants to be a superhero spoof and others when it aims for the macabre satire of the Addams Family cartoons.
Perhaps this confusion is the reason why those little yellow guys — Gru’s “minions” — dominated the marketing campaign. You never learn exactly what they are in the movie, yet their slapstick comedy needs no explanation. Kids will laugh, but don’t let them get too attached — more than one minion is dispatched in a burst of jokey violence, always the last resort for a comedy unsure of itself.