Movie Review: Despicable Me (**)

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Despicable Me.  95 mins.  PG.  Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud.  Written by Ken Daurio.  Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, and Julie Andrews.

It's telling that in a movie featuring the voices of a bevy of talented comedians in roles big (Steve Carell) and small (Danny McBride), the only things that stand out as unique and funny are the yellow minions prevalent in all of the movie's advertisements.  The rest of Despicable Me is an overly crowded mixture of wink-wink, nudge-nudge comic book villainy and treacly family comedy.  Adults, having been spoiled by the likes of Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, won't get much out of this kiddie flick, beyond some in-your-face 3D effects and an occasional grimace or two.  Kids, on the other hand, should dig it just fine.
Half of the movie follows super-villain Gru (Carell, in an exaggerated Russian accent) on a quest to impress his mom and steal the moon (yes, the moon), before a rival villain, Vector (Jason Segel) beats him to it.  The other half deals with Gru's adoption of three oh-so-cute orphan girls and the letting down of his emotional guard.  Sometimes these stories intersect, but most times not.  The two don't really go together all that well.  The pitch might have gone something like this: It's The Incredibles meets...Annie...times 3.  
Watching it, you kind of get what the filmmakers intended, but they don't seem to have spent enough time working on the story.  That's what separates Pixar from everybody else.  Story reigns supreme over there - whereas here, it's almost an afterthought.  And when in doubt, Despicable Me's modus operandi is fairly clear: just add more yellow minions!  It's a smart ploy given that most of the jokes are lame puns (case in point: the creation of a fart gun leads Gru to say this choice line: "I said DART gun, not . . . oh never mind").  
The score by Pharrell Williams is a tad more hip than usual for a children's film, but that's probably the only hip thing about it.  And while the hefty box office over the weekend portends a sequel, there is really nowhere else to go with this idea.  Yeah, like that'll stop 'em.

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