Reel Time Despicable Me
(PG) (2010) Once in awhile an evildoer appears on the scene who is so mean that redemption seems out-of-the-question. Such a “rotten egg” is the evil curmudgeon, Gru (Steve Carell). Even if the film makers hadn’t led us right to Gru’s front door, there would be no doubt that the drab, foreboding house with the over-grown lawn belonged to a pretty evil guy. Now demoted to being the second most nefarious bad-guy in the world, since his nemesis, Vector (Jason Segal), stole the Great Pyramid, Gru is determined to win back first place status. With an underground headquarters teeming with scientific looking gadgets and a hoard of (cute, little yellow) minions working deep below his grungy, suburban home, Gru works feverishly to top his rival’s stunning caper. In all his badness, including a very heavy pseudoRussian accent quite reminiscent of Boris Badenov (“Rocky and His Friends”), Gru appears to be a heartless villain through and through. His latest caper involves shrinking and stealing the Moon, an endeavor so large that his evil deed will be noticed around the globe and his criminal reputation will be restored. When three little orphan girls appear on his doorstep selling cookies, Gru develops the perfect plan to execute his scheme. What he didn’t expect is that cute little girls like Edith, Agnes and Margo, have a way of growing on you. Animated films and 3-D CGI effects seem to go hand-inhand at the movies this year. In the case of “Despicable Me,” the effect adds a wonderful dimension to the audience’s overall viewing experience. Instead of being merely a showcase for the technology, the story is enhanced by the expanded visuals. After the movie, we are given a wonderful demonstration of the medium’s capabilities when the little minions attempt to physically connect with the audience.
Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin together with screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio manage to create and visualize a tale that is universally entertaining. A simple plot with enough tiny, clever nuisances to keep you watching it with a keen eye, “Despicable Me” has plenty to offer with its subtle humor, fine voice-over talent and sheer quirkiness. The good news is a portal to a sequel seems to have been left ajar. ★★★★
The Karate Kid (PG) (2010) A sequel worthy of the original, this heartwarming tale of one youngster’s triumph over bullies hits the spot for summer family entertainment. Twelveyear-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) makes an unwanted move from Detroit to Beijing, China, when his mother gets a work transfer. Leaving his home, neighborhood and friends behind, Dre is obviously a very unhappy fish-out-of-water in China. To add to his misery, his older, larger classmates are out to get him. In Dre’s case, going to a new school can be quite literally painful as he is constantly getting roughed up by a gang of martial arts students. Dre’s plight is tempered only by his attraction to a young, musically talented female classmate, Mei Ying. Unfortunately, her mutual feelings toward him only fuel the bullying and the threatening behavior becomes unrelenting. With no one to turn to for advice in this strange land, his situation seems hopeless. Enter the humble, reclusive handyman at Dre’s apartment house, Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) who takes the American boy under his wing and teaches him the skills and attitudes that he needs to become a confident young man. Jackie Chan plays the role well. His slapstick, comic moves are put on hold as he gently, but firmly, mentors his student in the ways of life as well as the moves of karate. There just has to be a