Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove | PG |
Think of Despicable Me as the bizarro Toy Story 3. While Buzz and Woody’s final adventure focused on rich characters, tight plotting and subtle 3-D graphics, Despicable glories in 3-D trickery, producing such superb effects that those annoying glasses are worth the strain. It’s the story that suffers. Carell plays Gru, a supervillain with plans to steal the moon to please his creaky mentor (Brand) and fend off dippy rival Vector (Jason Segel). To thwart Vector, Gru hatches a plan to adopt three girls that’s so inane, you understand why he’s slipping as a supervillain. But thank goodness he does, because Despicable doesn’t begin to get interesting, funny, or emotionally involving until those kids show up. As Gru struggles with priorities-the girls or his nefarious career?-the audience takes zippy rides around Earth, to the moon and on a dizzyingly real roller coaster. And eventually the story catches up to the wonder of the effects.
The Kids Are All Right
Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo | R |
The kids-Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson)-are great, actually, but man, are their moms struggling. Breezy Jules (Moore) starts a landscaping business, maybe to feel grounded in her life: Joni is preparing for college; Laser has his own friends; and doctor wife Nic (Bening) doesn’t seem to see her. Nic, tired of bankrolling Jules’ whims, retreats into work and wine. It’s the kids who hunt for a connection, finding their sperm donor, Paul (Ruffalo), a seductively casual guy. That Paul and Jules are attracted to each other is stunning yet relatable, like the film itself. Bening is brilliant in her portrayal of Nic’s contained devastation, but all the actors make the most of even the silences in director Lisa Cholodenko and cowriter Stuart Blumberg’s stellar script. Sure, it’s early in the season for Oscar bait, but when it’s this good, why wait?