Starring (the voices of): Steve Carrell. Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Jermaine Clement

Director(s): Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Writer(s): Ken Daurio, Sergio Pablos, Cinco Paul

Cinematography: Eric Guillon

Original Score: Heitor Pereira, Pharrell Williams

Running Time: 95 mins.

Having your villain as the lead character is nothing new, not least in the world of CGI animation which sees two such films released within a month of each other, Megamind which is Dreamworks latest toon and sees its lead voiced by Will Ferrell is the second to get a release while Despicable Me is the first out of the gates which also casts a comedy superstar as the lead, this time around Steve Carrell sporting a comedy-value eastern European voice. Which one proves to be the better of the two remains to be seen but Despicable Me takes a good crack at a well-worn story

Carrell is Gru, a bald, pointy-nosed seeking to commit a villainous deed big enough to make his perpetually disappointed mother (Julie Andrews) proud, all of which means a plot to steal the moon is planned hindered by “The Bank of Evils” refusal to lend Gru the money for a rocket and the ever more annoying intervention of a rival super-villain in the form of Segel’s Vector. But in order to get the required shrink-ray Gru must penetrate Vector’s heavily armed fortress with the help of three cute orphan girls, where will it all end? And will it be as predictable as you expect?

As for predictability Despicable Me wears its heart on its sleeve, of course the orphan girl’s will melt Gru’s heart, there would be very little in terms of plot of they didn’t, and while it is tackled in the most hackneyed way possible with a last-minute dash to save them, for extra cliched measure, it isn’t nearly as plodding and painful as many of its peers (Ice Age, the current Alpha and Omega) and gets by on laughs, sadly they are the kind of laughs sitting in the region of titters rather than belly laughs, on the whole at least. It is telling that it is in those scenes that have least to do with the plot that hit the best, the more “random” humour as it were.

The character of Gru is the standout point of the film, a character due a better film to display his “talents” helped greatly by Carrell’s vocal skills and the relationship with hsi mother, some classic put-downs stem from this situation, and the slightly darker hints are so welcome you crave more to raise the calibre of the film, the tone should be more animated Lemony Snicket rather than a slow descent into Mrs. Doubtfire, and not in a good way…

There are glimmers of something straining to reach beyond mediocrity and hit the same comedic heights of last years Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs but when it looks like being that out-there and daring a plot contrivance is on hand to shoot you back down, something which has to be laid at the feet of directors Coffin and Renaud, they are first=time directors but unsurprisingly had a hand in the lacklustre Ice Age trilogy. Despicable Me is not nearly as weak as those films but has the same lack of reach on the whole that leaves you feeling as though the idea of rival super-villains in a wacky world inhabited by a plethora of comedy stars voice-work could be both great and greatly unique, maybe Megamind will be that film…or failing that we will have the inevitable Despicable Him/You/Us/We!

VERDICT

Despicable Me is amusing wnough to be entertaining but sadly that is all, sad because the opportunity for something special was there and largely wasted in favour of soppy cliche.

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