Monday, 25 October 2010

Despicable Me; movie villainy shouldn't be this heartwarming

Despicable Me is ridiculously charming. I can't work out how it gets way with it, because it ought to have brought me out in some kind of diabetic shock instead of making me feel all smiley. I'd been suckered in by the trailer, which features a thoroughly heartless depiction of Mr and Mrs Middle America going on holiday in Egypt and almost losing their kid to a terrible fall from rickety scaffolding onto the great pyramid. On the one hand, it makes US tourists look like fat expendable morons; on the other hand, it probably didn't cheer up the Egyptian foreign ministry much either. But it was a funny trailer and I thought, what the hell?

And the movie tries to stay true to this heartless glee at villainy for oh, it must be about ten minutes. After that, our dastardly anti-hero turns into the most put-upon of punch-clock villains and we're not in the movie I thought I was going to at all. Well, I didn't mind. As put upon punch clock villains go Gru is entertaining, and everything around him is funnier than he is, so it all works out fine. Gru's nemesis, Vector, is a nerd who might as well have been called Bill Gates, particularly after the second or third time that Gru tried to amp up his interchangeable minions by doing power point presentations in a turtleneck sweater. I imagine Bill won't sue, and Steve may not even notice. Scott Adams might; the evil bank manager at the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers) is a three dimensional version of the pointy haired boss from Dilbert and I couldn't believe how little they did to make him look in any way different.

The reason the movie works is the minions and the three kids. The kids are wonderfully thought out; nothing like real kids, and yet terribly like real kids. Like all Hollywood children they're far too grown up, but whoever animated them gave them perfect childlike attitudes. It's perfectly plausible that they might make Gru see the error of his ways; they certainly had me rooting for them. And the minions are marvellous. I'd pay money to see a movie that was just about the minions. They're just somehow hilarious. They speak a high pitched gabble which is almost, but not quite, intelligible (the director voiced most of them) and they've got way more individuality than a horde of little yellow blobs in identical blue dungarees ought to have. Looking back on the move almost a week after I saw it, I couldn't tell you a single funny thing they actually do, but they're brilliant.

Actually, I can tell you one thing they do. They OWN the closing credits, which are also the only place where there's any point in the 3D glasses. Like most 3D movies, Despicable Me is in 3D for no good reason at all; nothing happens in the action that really benefits from the technology. But the closing credits are very imaginative; they feature the minions trying to reach out into the audience with longer and longer tools, and it's a perfect way to use the completely useless "oh look, here's something sticking out of the screen" effect which is all contemporary 3d amounts to.

Anyhow, it's all great fun when it really shouldn't be, and I sort of want Gru's car. it's little bigger than mine, and I shudder to think what the mileage would be, but it has a certain presence on the road.

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