Monday, July 12, 2010

Despicable Me (2010, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud)

One of the most enduring moviegoing grips is the old saw that Hollywood is running out of fresh ideas. And considering the lucrative kids’ market, it’s little wonder that most studios play it safe by rehashing hit properties for family audiences. So it’s admirable to see Universal, not usually known for animated fare, releasing a more or less original property like Despicable Me, especially at the height of the summer season. However, one of the disadvantages to starting up a potential franchise is that it requires a kind of media carpet-bombing to build awareness that isn’t necessary for stuff that has been around for years. Thus, while Disney and Pixar can get away with a few Toy Story 3 trailers that show everyone that, hey, Buzz and Woody are back in a new adventure, the folks behind Despicable Me have to work harder to get the word out. Anticipating this need, Universal released their first teaser last summer, and since then they’ve rolled out several other spots to play in theatres and on television. Consequently, much of the movie’s highlights have been spoiled by the advertising campaign. Sure, the studio has successfully marketed their movie into a family blockbuster, but it already feels like I’ve seen most of the good stuff after a single viewing.

Is this unfair? I suppose, especially since I usually try to confine my thoughts on a movie to what happens between the studio logo and the final MPAA rating card. But it’s also sort of inevitable, seeing as how I can’t exactly hook myself up to Dr. Mierzwiak’s memory-expunging machine before watching a movie (if I could, I’d use it to experience some of my favorites again for the first time). And strangely enough, going into the movie with most of the money moments pre-spoiled for me had a side effect of allowing me to better-appreciate the smaller sight gags, especially the background architectural stuff that otherwise might be lost. Additionally, the story’s inevitable turn toward the maudlin was far less grating to me here than in many other cases where it spoils the fresh hilarity. Nonetheless, Despicable Me isn’t good enough to overcome that feeling of déjà vu that was caused by its advertising campaign. Perhaps now that everyone is familiar with this movie, its large grosses will allow Universal to be more confident in what it has that they’ll be able to surprise us a little with the inevitable sequel.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

No comments: