Co-Director Pierre Coffin invents his own gibberish… Phoenix keyboardist ROB composes for a MANIAC…
From the luxurious Cinefantastique Online studios in NYC, Dan Persons brings you up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of fantastic film & TV.
It’s the minions’ world, we just live in it… Gru’s rocky road to niceness… Never date the daughter of a supervillain…
From the luxurious Cinefantastique Online studios in NYC, Dan Persons brings you up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of genre media.
There seems to be something inherent in human nature – and I’m no exception – that makes us more eager to complain than to praise. I guess it makes sense: if every thing’s going along fine, you just take it for granted and go about your business; but if something offends, you raise hell in order to get things changed. What this means in the world of reviewing is that your email box tends to fill up with more tirades of complaint than hymns of praise. Therefore, I was rather surprised and delighted to find a few hits coming to my DESPICABLE ME review from this post over at a blog called Squared Reviews. (The title is a clever play on the fact that the blog reviews reviews. No, that’s not a typo: they write reviews of reviews that others have written about movies. A review of a review is a review squared. Get it?)
Anway, the reviewer (who goes by the nomde plume Dash Kwiat) is tickled by the bricks and barbs I hurled at the execrable SHREK FOREVER AFTER. More important, he seems to have had a similar experience to mine: expecting little from DESPICABLE ME and then being pleasantly surprised. For modesty’s sake, I will not quote every nice thing said about me, but here are some excerpts:
I’m going to level with you guys; I really liked this review because […] I can identify with his seemingly cynical take on cinema. It’s as if coming into the theater, he expected a standard animated film, thrown together to entertain stupid children and sell toys, and was shocked and pleased by a well told narrative.
Come on let’s be fair, we all thought it would be terrible.
The funny part is that while Biodrowski compares the plot of “Despicable Me” to “A Christmal Carol,” that’s how I see this review. Biodrowksi has shown that children’s movies can be fun again.
Biodrowski hits all the important things a review needs, an explication of the plot, the characters, the storyline, but more than that, his faith in cartoons [not made by Pixar, since they never strayed from the path] seems to be restored.
This is a heartwarming review of a heartwarming film.
Well, all I can say is thanks. DESPICABLE ME was a pleasant surprise, and I am happy to have shared that experience in a way that found favor with someone of obviously discriminating tastes and a fine eye for good writing.
Of course, not all readers are so favorable. In a day or two, I’ll get around to telling you what someone thought of my ancient capsule review (unfortunately not available online yet) of HALLOWEEN IV.
Following up on this week’s in-depth discussion of EYES WITHOUT A FACE, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski launch into an informal chat about horror, fantasy, and science fiction films of 1960, including BLACK SUNDAY (which will become the subject of a future podcast in August). Also on the menu: another look at DESPICABLE ME and reaction to the news that writer-director Guillermo Del Toro will be helming a film based on Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion theme park attraction, reviving a franchise that has lain dormant since the disappointing 2003 version of THE HAUNTED MANSION, starring Eddie Murphy.
Not too surprisingly, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films were the biggest grossing Summer box office films this weekend.
Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION hit bigger than expected, with a $60.4 million debut. Let’s see if the challenging SF film has legs.
Universal’s winning animated SF-inspired comedy DESPICABLE ME took in another $32.7 million, bringing it’s total to over 118 million dollars thus far.
THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE came in third place for Walt Disney Pictures, with just over $17 million in its second week, bringing the domestic total to about $24,500, 000 — considerably less than the studio expected, I suspect.
Teen/Tween favorite THE TWILGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE continues to draw respectable business, with another $13.5 million, bringing it’s domestic take to just under $265 million.
Pixar’s well-received TOY STORY 3 came in fifth, with 11.5 million, earning over $362 million in 4 and a half weeks, domestically. It’s made $630,209,000 world-wide. Figures from BoxOfficeMojo.com
Leaves the latest Shrek lying in the dirt like a beat-up has-been
Pixar Animation Studios is probably not losing any sleep over this challenge to their supremacy in the animated family-film sweepstakes, but it is safe to say that, with DESPICABLE ME, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment leap-frog over DreamWorks Animation to take the second-place position, leaving SHREK FOREVER AFTER lying in the dirt like the feeble remnant of a dying franchise that it is. DESPICABLE ME is funny, imaginative, and heartfelt, mixing the different elements smoothly together. Graced with impressive computer-generated animation and sight gags that occasionally suggests a new millennium version of a Tex Avery Looney Tune, DESPICABLE ME also dares to reach whole-heartedly for the sentimental moments, without the nudging and winking that DreamWorks uses to avoid appearing schmaltzy. It’s the best of both worlds, and even if the film never achieves the poignancy of TOY STORY 3’s fiery climax, DESPICABLE ME is in some ways more consistently entertaining from beginning to end.
The story focuses on Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a criminal mastermind who has recently been upstaged by a new rival, Vector (voiced by Jason Segel). Trying to re-establish himself as #1, Gru hits on a scheme to steal the moon, but he runs short of capital and finds that the Evil Bank (formerly Lehman Brothers) is reluctant to fund someone whose prime may be past. Fortunately, Gru’s minions (yellow creatures who talk gibberish and look the same except that some have only one eye) pitch in to fund the scheme. The only problem is: Gru needs access to Vector’s well-guarded home. He achieves this by adopting three orphans who are scheduled to deliver some cookies they sold to Vector. At first, Gru sees the trio only as tools in his scheme, to be ditched the minute they have served their purpose. Will he have a change of heart…?
You don’t need a degree in screen writing to answer that last question. In essence, DESPICABLE ME is a CHRISTMAS CAROL-type story about a reprobate who finds redemption, the difference being that, instead of three spirits, it is three orphans who serve as the catalyst for change. One of the film’s little triumphs is that Gru is lovable from scene one, long before his transformation. For him, villainy seems to be a just career, not a matter of malicious intent (in fact, the woman running the orphanage seems far more wicked that Gru).
Judging from the numerous flashbacks to his youth, we surmise that mostly Gru is hoping to achieve something memorable that will finally impress his emotionally distant mother (voiced by Julie Andrews). The shock of seeing the younger version of the character performs a function similar to the one seen with Anton Ego in RATATTOUILLE, although here it is used throughout, not as a last-minute surprise. (To stretch a point, Oliver Stone used a similar technique in a vain attempt to generate sympathy for the title character in NIXON.) DESPICABLE ME is filled with hilarious visuals: some of them are delightfully over the top (as befits an animated comedy in 3-D), and some of it is so subtle you might miss it. (Although Gru’s minions are virtually identical, he has no trouble telling them apart, casually calling them by first name.) There is also brilliantly realized action-packed finale involving high-speed airships that works as well as any live-action scene you will see this summer.
Unlike recent live-action 3-D films (especially those converted in post-production), DESPICABLE ME actually puts the process to good use in scenes like this, and just to drive the point home, there is an amusing closing credits sequence that has the minions climbing a ladder out into the audience and springing off as if it were a diving board. Although Gru’s redemption is predictable, it works perfectly on screen, thanks to a clever script, which knows when and how to push the right emotional buttons. DESPICABLE ME is not afraid to lay it on thick, but it goes just far enough to elicit a tear and a sigh, not a derisive guffaw. The film has clearly been designed with the family audience in mind, offering elements that will appeal to both children and adults; the film’s triumph is that it does not feel cynically calculated, and whether or not you are a child or have children of your own, you will be as delighted as any ten-year-old. This is one time, when the final-scene hint of a sequel actually engenders a welcome sense of anticipation. DESPICABLE ME (July 9, 2010). Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud. Screenplay by Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul, story by Sergio Pablos. Voices: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Danny McBride.
In CFQ’s Post-Mortem Podcast (or should that be Podcast Post-Mortem?), Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski offer a free-form follow-up to the regular Cinefantastique Podcast, including further in-depth insights on the minutia of PREDATORS and a look at the week’s other big genre release, DESPICABLE ME, the hilarious 3-D animated film from Universal Pictures. Also included at no extra cost: films that inspired Stendhal Syndrome-like reactions (i.e., mind-blowing) and films that inspired “morning after” regret (i.e., “Why did I ever think that was any good?”).
DESPICABLE ME opens today, July 9th, from Universal Studios.
“In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences and flowering rose bushes sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden deep beneath this home is a vast secret hideout.
Surrounded by an army of mischievous little minions, we discover Gru (Steve Carell) planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon (Yes, the moon!) in Universal’s new 3-D CGI feature, DESPICABLE ME.
Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. That is, until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad.
One of the world’s greatest super-villains has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith and Agnes.”
Also starring the voices of Jason Segel, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, and Jack McBrayer.
Screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Directed by the team of Pierre Coffin, John Cohen, Chris Renaud, and Sergio Pablos.
Rated PG, full of comic sci-fi devices, probably good fun for the kids and easy on the adults.
Universal Pictures releases this animated fantasy film about a trio of orphans who charm a deplorable villain into abandoning his attempt to steal the moon. Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, and Sergio Pablos directed, from a screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. Jason Segel, Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett Julie Andrews, and Danny McBride supply the voices. Release date: July 9.