Despicable criminal mastermind Gru (voice of Steve Carell) wants to set himself apart from his arch-rival Vector (Jason Segel), so he decides to steal the moon by shrinking it down to the size of a trinket that will fit in his pocket. But before he can set things in motion he ends up adopting a trio of orphans who make him want to be something more than merely despicable.
Poor Gru is a casebook example of a mama’s boy, but with Julie Andrews handling her voice work, he deserves a little slack, and it is certainly tough out there in the big bad world of big bad bad guys when your chief gadgets dude, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), is so old that he has lost his mind, his get-up-and-go and his hearing. The gags often strain to achieve the effortless brilliance of Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd/Road Runner-Coyote classics, but there’s lots of fun here, especially in the legion of little yellow minions who attempt to do Gru’s bidding.
Animated features have built-in buoyancy and a certain lightness of touch, so it is usually best to refrain from tugging at the heartstrings (or the laugh lines) with too much gusto, unless there’s enough magic to cast a spell over both children and adults equally. Gru, his adopted daughters and his minions stole a little piece of my heart, but Despicable Me failed to capture my full, unbridled imagination. Grade: B