Who's In It: The voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Miranda Cosgrove, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher
The Basics: A sinister supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell, doing a sort of evil Yakov Smirnoff) adopts a trio of orphan girls as part of his plan to steal a shrink ray from his newfound archenemy, Vector (Jason Segel). But as fatherhood unexpectedly begins to melt Gru's cold, cold heart, his career-saving plot to steal the moon and become the number one villain in the world starts to feel way less important than taking his spunky charges to amusement parks and ballet lessons. Can Gru defeat Vector AND learn how become a good suburban dad, against all odds? And should you care if he does it all in 3D?
What's The Deal: Despicable Me is no Pixar flick -- but then, did you want to put the fear of death and loss into your kids' hearts again, so soon after last month's moving but slightly trauma-inducing Toy Story 3? Thanks to imaginative visual design and voice work, this sweet and sometimes macabre tale about a villain finding his inner nurturer will engage your senses and touch your soul. The lightweight plot, however, won't linger in your memory long after you leave the theater. But as a summer treat, Despicable Me provides fine enough family delights at the multiplex -- especially for younger kids, who'll grasp towards the screen at the film's gimmicky, diverting 3D gags. The film, mirroring its anti-hero, settles on not being despicable by being just good enough.
Despicable Me's Best Character: Vector, Gru's bespectacled, jumpsuit-wearing nemesis with a bowl cut and a cache of quirky gadgets (squid gun, anyone?). He closely resembles Bill Gates if Bill Gates was a spoiled, snotty, teenage criminal mastermind. Segel brings Vector to life with nerdy aplomb in his Spy vs. Spy-styled rivalry with Gru, yet imbues him with a touch of pathos driven by Vector's lingering daddy issues.
Oh Yes, Those Minions: Gru's supervillain mansion is built atop a secret underground lair populated by thousands of the short yellow creatures who faithfully carry out their masters' evil plans. They resemble a race of Oompa Loompas spliced with tater tots dressed like Bob the Builder, and yes, your kids will fall instantly in love with them. Warning: children may start babbling in tongues, punching each other for laughs, and offering up their allowance money to help finance your family's various illegal activities. Not the best role models in movie history, but gosh darnit, they're cute!
What Despicable Me Has In Common With Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, And The Early '90s Hip-Hop Group Wreckx-N-Effect: It features original songs co-written by pop/hip-hop producer and performer Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. How do you like them apples, Pixar?