Despicable Me: Trying Too Hard to Be Pixar?

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With the summer movie season finally energized by the July 4th tandem of Twilight: Eclipse and The Last Airbender, Hollywood looks to keep up the momentum with the release of Universal's first substantial large-scale animated release, Despicable Me. Critics have given a tentative thumbs up to the Steve Carell-anchored flick, which revolves around the grinch-like villain, Gru. Wide-shouldered, beak-nosed Gru may or may not let a soft spot for a trio of orphans ruin his plans to steal the moon. Universal's marketing team is betting that the appeal of the multi-talented Steve Carell (see The New Yorker's recent profile) can carry the film, which seems a good bet given that many reviewers think the plot looks a tad thin.

  • It 'Tries Much Too Hard' grumbles A.O. Scott at The New York Times, who found the film's relentless pace, "second rate humor" and "warmed over sentiment" less than agreeable. Although the movie strives for a "Pixaresque purity of feeling" it more often "veer[s] toward Shrekland." He concludes: "The difference between inspired creation and frantic pretending is the difference between magic and mediocrity, between art and junk, or to cite a conveniently available example, between 'Toy Story 3' and 'Despicable Me.'"
  • Polished Enough to Compete With Pixar exclaims Peter Debruge of Variety, although he notes that the title clearly looks less expensive. "[It] plays young, but the script is genuinely clever, delivering much of its humor visually (all the better to translate internationally). As such, pic distinguishes itself from most of the CG-animated competition out there, owing more to Mad magazine (the escalating Gru-vs.-Vector conflict brings 'Spy vs. Spy' strips to mind) than other stereoscopic 3D toons."
  • 'Any Kids' Flick Called Despicable Me Has Won Over Subversive Me' gushes Rick Groen at The Globe and Mail. The film factors in "a climactic sight gag accessible enough to have the kiddies giggling yet literate enough to leave grad students smiling, and the urge is irresistible: Roll out the stars, one for each deliciously despicable syllable. This animated thing pretty near out-Pixars Pixar."
  • 'An Agreeable Confection' ventures Time's Richard Corliss who cited the title's comic book villain and cartoonish accent as details reminiscent of the early Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck serials. He also notes that Carrell tries to spice up the dialogue by shouting in the middle of sentences (a verbal tic that anyone familiar with The Office will understand) to varying degrees of success.
  • 'Something of a Chore' The Los Angeles Time's critic Kenneth Turan wasn't impressed with a "3-D animated feature so saccharine that sappy sentimentality is more of a danger than exposure to evil." Although he granted that Gru's many animated minions have charm in the film (he was already talking spin-offs), Turan brushed off the title with scrooge-like brevity, saying that it reeks of an "unmistakably fatal air of trying too hard."

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