Saturday, 27 June 2015

DESPICABLE ME - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Oh Christ! There's a prequel? Really? Ugh!

Look, if it's okay with you, since all these movies are the same, I won't bother reviewing MINIONS, just as I didn't bother reviewing DESPICABLE ME 2. The first film, DESPICABLE ME, is the only one I've seen, so let's talk about why it's mind-numbingly mediocre. It'll be for the same reasons the new pictures are also mind-numbingly mediocre. I don't even need to see them to know that. Because, I, uh, like, uh, saw the first one, eh. It's all anyone really needs in these dark days of dead-head movies for dead-head audiences.

Despicable Me (2010)
dir. Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carrell, Jason Segal, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There was a sequel two summers ago, a prequel this summer and yet another sequel two summers from now, but you know what? I'm good. The first film in this franchise (a word I hate) was more than enough for this fella. They can doll these things up all they like, but most contemporary animated films are pretty much interchangeable and in spite of inexplicably over-the-top critical orgasms and astounding boxoffice, most of them, like 2010's Despicable Me fall squarely into the been-there-done-that category.

I can understand why most critics raved about the movie. Most of them aren't what I'd bother to call critics anyway; they're hacks (at worst) and/or glorified studio flacks (at best). What I don't get is the ridiculous number of family audiences filling the theatres for mediocre crap like this. Are these families so desperate for entertainment they can see as families, that they'll succumb to any moderately clever ad campaign to fork over their dough for a familiar, over-hyped picture?

Or are they merely that dull, unimaginative and stupid? I'll keep the correct answer to myself. You can do your own math. (As for the aforementioned shills, it's beyond simple math, it's just one big fat zero to the power of infinity.)

As for the very first Despicable Me, it was really little more than a pallid reversal on Brad Bird's (terrific) The Incredibles. Here, the focus is upon a network of super-villains as opposed to the latter's world of superheroes. One of the big differences between the two, though, is that The Incredibles was made by a director who not only has a great sense of humour and storytelling chops, but a real appreciation for epic sweep and a true geek's affinity for the kind of derring-do that his fellow "losers" in the audience are also imbued with. Bird's film displayed originality, genuine wit and thoroughly pulse-pounding action - action that's rooted in the dramatic beats, but also expertly designed in terms of overall geography and pace.

Despicable Me, on the other hand, is full of stale gags and a ho-hum plot. Most of all, the action sequences are frenetic, chaotic and have absolutely no sense of geography and/or dramatic resonance.

The same can be said for Despicable Me 2 and Minions, neither of which I've seen, because I don't have to. I've seen this one, eh.

The plot of Despicable Me, such as it is, deals with Gru (Steve Carrell), the world's Super-Villain #2 and his desire to unseat the young Super-Villain #1, an upstart by the name of Vector (Jason Segal). With the help of three cute-as-a-button orphans, Gru undertakes to become the most evil, heinous villain in the world. This dastardly curmudgeon is, however, transformed into a much kinder individual thanks to the charms of the orphans and his growing (ugh!) love for them.

And then there are the minions. The less said about them, the better.

So! Sound vaguely familiar? I thought as much. It's a variation on virtually every contemporary animated movie, including Despicable Me 2 and Minions, neither of which I've seen, and have no intention of ever seeing. Nor will I bother seeing Despicable Me 3 in 2017. I don't have to. I've already seen them - way back in 2010. It's called Despicable Me.

With that first film, I found the whole affair so familiar that I genuinely can't remember much more about it than the dull plot recounted above. None of the jokes resonated with me at all; they were strictly dullsville. The opening sight gag involving the theft of the pyramids in Egypt seemed decent enough, but big deal. It was screened in its entirety for months as a trailer, just as every joke in any of the "franchise" have been.

Even though Despicable Me and its ilk are family pictures, would it have been so hard to shoehorn some delightfully, nastily, almost malevolent dark humour instead of the safe corn-pone TV-style knee-slappers? It is, after all, a cartoon and that's the sort of humour both adults and kids love (a la the Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner cartoons from Warners). In the film's favour, we weren't inundated with endlessly annoying contemporary pop-culture references that are supposed to be funny and which, of course, are going to date all the pathetic animated films that do. (Shrek, anyone? I thought not.)

The look of Despicable Me is not without a few shreds of merit, but many of the gadgets and characters - while serviceable for the film's running time - don't last in the memory banks. The vocal performances - while competent - are bereft of the sort of Cliff Edwards brilliance from classic Disney that knocks you on your butt and stays with you forever.

The frenetic pace of Despicable Me and its ilk actually have the effect of bogging the pictures down. The Incredibles, on the other hand, was about thirty minutes longer than this 2010 "original", yet zipped by so effortlessly, that one didn't want it to end. Despicable Me, on the other hand, inspired little more than endless glances at my iPhone.

Other than being insufferably inoffensive and watchable for its 95-minute running time, those are about the only things in its favour. The same can be said for Despicable Me 2 and Minions, neither of which I've seen, and have no intention of ever seeing, because I've seen Despicable Me. You get the drift.

And now, there's a goddamn prequel!!! After a sequel and before another fucking sequel!

I'm still wondering: Where in the name of Christ were all the movie-going morons (and moron film critics) earlier this summer for Brad Bird's gorgeous Tomorrowland? Waiting to see Minions, no doubt.

Besides, there are always solid movies on the big screen that families would be doing themselves and their kids a favour to see instead of crap like the Despicable Me franchise.

I remember the year I took my (then) 9-year-old daughter to see Despicable Me. Yeah, she watched it, but around the same time that year, she also saw the highly imaginative Vincenzo Natali sci-fi horror picture Splice and made me take her to see it several times on a big screen. It thrilled her, entertained her, stayed with her and most importantly, stimulated the sort of mind-expanding discourse that more kids would benefit from.

So why drag kids to the usual derivative fare? This summer we've seen the aforementioned Tomorrowland tank and even Mad Max: Fury Road might have done better business if parents had some guts and took their precious little buggers to see that one. I don't want to believe that these parents and their progeny are as equally unimaginative as the most unimaginative "family" movies, but as one animated picture after another with a similar pedigree continues to rake in big dollars, I can only assume the worst.

So feel free to use this review of a 5-year-old film to suffice for Minions and pretty much any other stupid contemporary animated film. They're all the same. I suppose if you and your spawn continue to suffer through them, then you are too.

The same, that is.

Despicable Me was released 5 years ago. Its prequel Minions is in wide release. I haven't seen it, nor will I, because I know it will be identical to this one.