Carell leads strong voice cast in cool-looking, forgettable 'Despicable Me'

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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Despite some clever moments and colorful characters, "Despicable Me" could have been called "Forgettable Me" instead.

It has a pleasingly off-kilter look about it - the work of a French animation house - a strong voice cast led by Steve Carell as the bumbling bad guy Gru and a delightfully cruel sense of humour. It's actually darker and odder than most family-friendly animated fare, and that's a good thing - until it goes predictably soft and gooey at the end, that is.

But what's mainly missing from this first animated 3-D offering from Universal is story. There's just nothing to "Despicable Me," and that becomes glaringly obvious when you compare it to this summer's "Toy Story 3" in particular and Pixar movies in general, where story is paramount.

Despite some clever moments and colorful characters, "Despicable Me" could have been called "Forgettable Me" instead.

It has a pleasingly off-kilter look about it - the work of a French animation house - a strong voice cast led by Steve Carell as the bumbling bad guy Gru and a delightfully cruel sense of humour. It's actually darker and odder than most family-friendly animated fare, and that's a good thing - until it goes predictably soft and gooey at the end, that is.

But what's mainly missing from this first animated 3-D offering from Universal is story. There's just nothing to "Despicable Me," and that becomes glaringly obvious when you compare it to this summer's "Toy Story 3" in particular and Pixar movies in general, where story is paramount.

Here, the look of the film is what makes it stand out amid the glut of summer cartoons. The characters are cute in their weirdness, down to Gru's shaggy, growling dog. Even the trio of spunky orphans crucial to Gru's latest diabolical plan - Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) - are adorable in an unusual way.

The scene-stealers, though, are the Minions: tiny, yellow, pill-shaped creatures with one eye and sometimes two who carry out Gru's evil deeds. At least, they try. But they're also super-cute: bouncing around, reveling in mischief and babbling to each other in their own gibberish. If "Despicable Me" had come out closer to Christmas, Minions probably would have made great stocking stuffers.

The movie starts out promisingly enough, though. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (from a story by Sergio Pablos), it moves along breezily with slapstick energy and a multitude of sight gags.

2 1/2 stars out of four.

Organizations: Pixar

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