It seems that the only really good movies I’ve seen this summer (at least so far) are animated. The latest summer blockbuster I saw was Despicable Me, the new feature from Dreamworks starring Steve Carell.
In Despicable Me, in an accent he calls a cross between Ricardo Montalban and Bela Lugosi, Carell lends his voice to Gru, a supervillain who is a bit down on his luck after a new hot-shot bad guy, Vector (Jason Segel), manages to steal the pyramids. Trying to reach his way back to the top, Gru devises a plan to steal the moon. The only problem is he doesn’t have the money to fund building a rocket. Gru seeks a loan at the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers), but angry that he hasn’t paid back his many outstanding loans and unimpressed that he hasn’t actually stolen the shrink ray necessary for the moon heist, the bank turns him down. Things go from bad to worse when Vector steals the shrink ray out from under Gru. In a bizarre plan to steal it back, gaining entrance to Vector’s fortress through robots disguised as Girl Scout cookies, Gru adopts Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) from Miss Hattie’s School for Girls. The girls find Gru’s soft spot and turn his world upside down.
Despicable Me was cute, but really predictable. It was kind of like Annie meets Inspector Gadget meets any superhero cartoon. There was never any doubt that Gru was going to be melted by how adorable the girls were. The girls were even cute in predictable ways. Margo is wise beyond her years. Edith is a trouble-making tomboy. Agnes is a dreamy, precocious toddler. Agnes, however, has several really laugh-worthy one-liners.
The humor in the movie is also predictably slapstick, which is fitting for a kids’ movie, but can also get old pretty quickly. Scattered throughout are a few jokes for grownups, but this is a movie more thoroughly intended for children than something like Shrek or the Toy Story films. That being said, it’s still pretty entertaining. My favorite part of the whole movie is Gru’s mass of minions, little yellow creatures that seem to be made out of rubber and have incredibly infectious laughs. To be honest, after seeing them in previews and the DLP titles over the last six months, I pretty much saw the movie just because of them.
Despicable Me is almost too saccharine to be very good, but it was an enjoyably silly 90 minutes at the movies.
Also out in theaters is The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which apparently is the number one movie in the world. I went to the midnight opening, where the line for people who preordered tickets was about a quarter of a mile long. Kids’ meal toys and the usual merchandising aside, there wasn’t as much hype about this installment of the Twilight Saga. Now, having seen the movie, I can understand why.
Eclipse continues to follow Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) as she struggles in her relationship with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who still refuses to change her into a vampire, at least not until they’re married. She also struggles with her feelings for her friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who is the beta-male in a pack of wolfmen. Okay, so after the first two movies, that’s nothing new. In this installment, however, Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is raising an army of blood-thirsty newborn vampires to hunt and kill Bella to avenge the killing of her mate, James. Now Team Edward and Team Jacob have a common enemy to protect Bella from. The usual battle of machismo ensues.
Eclipse wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t anything spectacular. That’s not really so much a problem of weak filmmaking as it is that the movie comes at a point in the series when the back and forth between Bella and Edward over Bella becoming a vampire and the back and forth between Bella and Jacob over Bella dating a vampire start to get a little stale. This time around it just seemed like Pattinson and Lautner were in a competition over who could do the best James Dean impersonation. Then, when the story did get a little exciting in the big battles, the special effects were so campy I just had to laugh.
I did enjoy, however, that this installment didn’t seem to take itself so seriously. Although the Twilight school of acting still dictates that to sound profound you just talk really slowly, there were moments scattered throughout that bordered on self-parody and lightened the tone of the film.
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