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Despicable Me (2010)

This is a movie that caught me completely off-guard; I didn’t see it in theaters because I didn’t expect much from it, but, after finally seeing it, it has now become one of those movies that I never tire of.

Despicable Me tells the story of Gru (Steve Carell), a middle-aged villain whose despicable crimes (such as stealing the miniature Statue of Liberty from Las Vegas) pale in comparison to the newest villain on the block, Vector (Jason Segel), who recently stole a pyramid from Egypt. Not to be outdone, Gru, along with the help of his fun-loving “Minions” and assistant, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), devises a plot to pull off the “crime of the century”: stealing the moon itself. Along the way, he adopts a trio of orphan sisters in order to gain access to Vector’s heavily-fortified home, but he’s in for a surprise when he realizes that these children may be more important than simply being unknowing accomplices in his evil scheme…they may just change his life.

The voice acting in this film is superb on all accounts. Carell as Gru is hysterical, with his strange foreign accent providing lots of fun lines to imitate with friends, and Segel as the competing villain Vector brings plenty of laughs as well…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shouted his “oh yeah!” when around friends! Julie Andrews as Gru’s mother is an unexpected delight as Gru’s cruelly indifferent mother, and Russell Brand’s voice transformation from a higher tenor to a gruff elderly baritone as Dr. Nefario is unrecognizable. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment in the voice acting department, however, is in the talent from the three girls: the impossibly adorable Agnes (Elsie Fisher), the rebellious Edith (Dana Gaier), and the critical eldest child Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). In the presence of much more experienced actors, these three never miss a beat in matching their older colleagues step for step. The directors have guided them wonderfully.

One aspect of this movie that particularly surprised me was its heart; the growth of Gru as a character throughout the film is heartwarming and well-developed. At no point does it ever feel rushed or forced, with his transition feeling very natural and genuine. As likable as Gru is as a villain, his role as father to Agnes, Edith, and Margo makes him even more lovable, and the fact that his “evil” plot to steal the moon is just the result of a long-time dream to visit space brings an interesting twist to the characterization. The humor in the film is also well-done; with every re-watch, I never tire of the jokes, which seem to never stale or grow old. The Minions add quite a bit to this humor, with their tendency for slapstick comedy and inappropriate jokes appealing equally to kids and to adults, or at least to me as a young adult in his early twenties.

As I mentioned before, I was totally surprised by how much I loved this film. The script is smart and the dialogue is endlessly quotable, and it has become one of the few movies that I have no problems with watching again and again. It has a fantastic (and, unfortunately, unreleased) score by Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams, with Pharrell’s original songs being quite enjoyable as well, despite me not being too fond of all of the lyrics (they just seem strange at times). The likability of these characters and the humor brought by each of the vocal talents behind them make Despicable Me one of the best animated films of the past few years.

Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for rude humor and mild action


Bedtime Stories (2008)

I’ve always felt that there is a difference between “good movies” and “movies that people enjoy”; for example, I don’t think anyone would argue with me if I said that Bedtime Stories, starring Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Russell Brand, and Guy Pearce, wasn’t a “good” movie, but I must confess – I enjoy the heck out of this movie.

I blame my love for this film on the likability of Russell Brand and Keri Russell. Brand has several delightfully quotable lines in this film (“I actually like ketchup on my face because it’s rejuvenating for the skin!”) that never fail to make me laugh, even on repeated viewings. Keri Russell, however, is charming and beautiful; I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her in August Rush, and she makes me smile every time she’s on screen. With fun stories told by a better-than-he-has-been-in-his-last-few-movies Sandler, cute kids, and an even cuter Bugsy, there’s plenty to like about this movie.

However, as I said before, this film wouldn’t typically be considered a “good” film. Sandler doesn’t come across as the kind of guy who should be telling kids bedtime stories. The voice-over from Jonathan Pryce is fine at the beginning and end, but there are a couple of instances in the movie when, as the narrator/Sandler’s father, speaks directly to Sandler’s character…it’s the one moment in the film that really irritates me. The story is cliche, the cause of the stories coming to life is never explored, and it is, admittedly, decidedly juvenile as a whole.

But none of that keeps me from chuckling every time Skeeter sees Bugsy’s eyes for the first time or when Rob Schneider makes an appearance as a Native American horse trader or when Russell Brand’s character wakes up from his so-called “sleep panic disorder”. Bedtime Stories is a kids’ movie through and through with some silly slapstick and obvious bits intended to make children laugh, but perhaps you’ll be able to find something to enjoy in it; as the Marty Bronson says in the film, “your fun is only limited by your imagination”.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some mild rude humor and mild language