‘Despicable Me’ lights up the summer

Somewhere you get the sense that the late great Chuck Jones is smiling. The creator of Daffy Duck and longtime Wile E. Coyote torturer would surely approve of Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud’s hilarious “Despicable Me.”

It’s the story of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) a super-villain on a mission to steal the moon. It’s never really explained what he’ll do with the celestial body, but it certainly looks good as he rolls out the project to his assembled Minions in a manner not unlike Steve Jobs at an Apple sales meeting.

Actually Gru is facing what turns out to be a bigger challenge than mere lunar larceny. His claim to be the world’s baddest bad-guy is being challenged by a Bill Gates-like super nerd usurper called Vector. Not only does Vector repeatedly out-villain Gru, he delights in humiliating the older criminal mastermind in a manner anyone who has spent time on an elementary school playground will recognize.

Complicating matters further is Gru’s decision to adopt three girls from a local orphanage. He thinks they would be useful in his plan to undermine Vector, but as tends to happen in animated films, the girls have other plans.

There is plenty of slapstick, especially amongst the endless supply of accident prone and trigger-happy minions to keep young eyes interested (particularly in the 3D version.) There’s also enough of an undercurrent of wry humor, old movie references, and winks at the trials of middle age and the dire economy to keep their attending adults engaged too. The film revels in its cliches, even putting cast and audience though a roller coaster ride just in case the 3D wasn’t being tested enough.

The film is such fun, it makes one wonder whether Steve Carell’s movie career might improve if he no longer actually appeared on screen, and just did voice work. It’s just a thought.

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