One of the challenges these days for Hollywood is to come up with a kid’s movie that will appeal to adults as well. Make it too clever and the little ones miss the joke. Make it too simple and the grown-ups zone out. The most successful at this style has undoubtedly been Pixar, which has released cross-over winners for years, including The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But the animation wing of Universal has scored with a winner of its own this year, Despicable Me.
I went into the movie with little expectation – the trailers had been amusing, but I certainly wasn’t dying to see it in theaters. Still, when ScottE proposed we try it, I figured it was worth a try. I wasn’t disappointed. The movie certainly isn’t great, but it’s an enjoyable romp for this adult and I’m certain it will go over like gangbusters with the younger set. Expect them to run around the house screaming, “It’s so FLUFFY!”
The plot is a twist on the old standard – our hero is in fact a super-villain by the name of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell). He’s been recently foiled in his standing as the greatest villain in town by smarmy upstart Vector (Jason Segel), a guy that’s a little too obsessed with sea creatures. To regain his notorious reputation, Gru needs to steal a certain item from Vector’s compound, and determines the only way is to use 3 precocious children that just happen to be available for adoption. His laughable attempts at parenting are the driving force for humor in the movie, but we also start rooting for him to win as we see his heart soften like the Grinch. The other source of laughs is Gru’s many minions, which look a bit like wide-eyed Twinkies.
If you just want a light diversion to beat the summer heat, then you’ll surely enjoy Despicable Me. And if there are kids in your life, they will certainly enjoy this broad comedy that’s about as offensive as a lollipop. I give this a solid B.
By the way, we did not see this in 3-D, and I don’t think we were missing much. Save the extra bucks and see the regular version.
The Kids Are All Right
This film has all the ingredients for my dream movie – strong actresses (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), a gay storyline (lesbian parents), indie cred and Oscar buzz. And in fact this movie is really great, easily one of the best I’ve seen this year. Expect it to be nominated for at least a couple Academy Awards next year.
The plot is unconventional but achingly real for today’s times. Parents Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are leading a life marked by the trials and tribulations of any family. They are raising two average teenagers – Joni (Mia Wasikowska), the overachieving 18 year-old that’s unsure how to treat boys other than as friends, and Laser, the athletic 15 year-old that hangs out with the wrong kids. Nic is a type-A OB-GYN that compensates with red wine (lots of it) while Jules is the flighty soul that’s struggling to come up with a career (she settles on landscape design).
All is as well as can be expected until Laser gets an itching to find out about the man who donated the sperm that his mothers used. Under the law his sister is entitled to make a request to meet the donor through the sperm bank, and so he pressures Joni to make the call. Enter Steve (divinely charismatic Mark Ruffalo), a laid-back ladies’ man that has started a successful locavore restaurant, WSIWYG. His rugged charms instantly appeal to Joni, who slowly welcomes him into the lives of their family. Drama ensues as Nic and Jules figure out how to balance the emotional needs of their kids with the threat of this man who is looking to be more than just a sperm donor.
This film really works because the emotions are both raw and real. You can understand both the motivations and struggles of all five characters. Laser, for example is just looking for a positive role model that’s as tough as he is, tired of being mollycoddled by his well-meaning moms. I was particularly pleased to see how average these lesbian moms were – you could see how simply the film could be rewritten starring a straight couple. Yet the situations were unique enough to be authentic to the lesbian (and gay) experience.
Also the acting is (no surprise) top-notch. I fully expect to see Bening nominated for an Oscar based on her acerbic but tender performance. Moore is also at her willowy best. Ruffalo is sexy as hell, but inside is a wounded, incomplete soul. And both of the kids are fully three-dimensional – I can see great futures for both actors.
On the whole this is a movie not to be missed. I give it an A-.