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Double Review: Despicable Me and Inception

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OK, so I figured because you guys have been so patient waiting for me to find enough time in my busy schedule to write this and since it’s my first time at my new home, I’m gonna be doing this as a double review. It’s also easier for me, because it saves me some time when I write a review for the last two movies I just saw instead of doing them separately. I can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. So, without further adieu, let’s start with Despicable Me, since I promised it last week.

I saw this movie with a friend on a whim. I probably would have seen it eventually anyways, but we decided to go together and see a movie we both could agree on (my friend is a girl), so we decided on this film. Despicable Me is the main contender this year from Universal Studios in the fight against Pixar and DreamWorks, who are about to release their third animated film this year in a matter of months. That movie is Megamind and it will be the Antz to Despicable Me’s A Bug’s Life. The two films both feature a super-villain as the main character and even seem to have a similar sense of humour, but I won’t really be able to compare them until later. It’s always impossible to tell who’s copying who in these scenarios or if any copying was really happening at all.

Anyways, whether or not Despicable Me was the copier or the copyee is not the issue here. The issue is, was this movie good? The answer is sort of. It was OK. I wouldn’t call it great, though I’m sure a lot of people would, but I wouldn’t call it bad either. Really my opinion of this film matters little, because it’s going to make assloads of money no matter what I say, but let’s still examine the film at least a little.

First let’s talk about the actors. Let’s face it. This movie was cast specifically to make more money. Think about it for a second. When you make a kid’s movie, what is your built in audience? The answer is two different age groups; small children 3-12 and the parents that have them. They’re usually 28-45ish. So, what does that leave? People my age. How do you get these people to go see a kid’s movie? Well, there are two ways. You can have a wicked kick-ass story worthy of being told to anyone who’s a kid at heart (See my review for Toy Story 3) and there’s getting actors that should be appearing on SNL/ a Judd Apatow movie and throw them into the cast. This film unfortunately chose the latter. Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig and Will Arnett all appear and with the exception of Carell (who did a superb job in my opinion) all these characters could have been played by just about anyone who could pull off their respective character voices. So, why choose these actors? Because it draws that crowd that lies in between the kids and their parents. 13-27 year olds are more likely to go see a movie with Steve Carell and Jason Segel than to go see a movie starring Ben Burtt where the characters barely talk. You know, unless that movie with Ben Burtt happens to be one of the best animated movies of all time, in which case, famous actors won’t make much of a difference. In short, it’s a lame way to compensate for a mediocre plot and I’m sad to say that Despicable Me reeks of mediocrity from its predictable plot to its jokes that seem to span the full spectrum of humour in an attempt to make everybody in the audience laugh at least once.

Speaking of humour, let’s talk about that next. What happens when you try to make everyone laugh at least once? Well, usually it works, but the fact is most people like to laugh more than once in a comedic movie. That may happen with some people, especially younger kids, but quite a few of the jokes in Despicable Me miss the mark a bit too much and leave everyone that isn’t a small child struggling to laugh at a lot of the jokes, which are really reaching sometimes. A few moments, such as a pointless dance number and a karaoke scene, both featuring Gru’s minions, are really just there for younger audiences. They left guys like me rolling our eyes and the lapses in logic in the film did take me out of the experience quite a bit. Yes, I know it’s a kid’s movie, but a good kids movie will make you believe it. Despicable Me doesn’t do that as much as I’d hoped and I never really felt drawn-in the way I should have been.

Now let’s talk about Despicable Me’s plot, probably its strongest suit. If it were treated properly this movie would have gone from mediocrity to masterpiece, but that’s the way it goes I guess. Basically Gru (played by Steve Carell) is a super-villain that hasn’t really succeeded at all of his endeavours and is threatened by obscurity as a new super villain named Vector (played by Jason Segel) steals not only the Great Pyramid, but Gru’s thunder as well. Now Gru has to prepare for the biggest job he’s ever done. He’s going to shrink down and steal the moon, but in order to do it, he has to exploit Vector’s only weakness, his penchant for cookies, by adopting three adorable orphans and forcing them to sell secret, robotic cookies to Vector in order to get back a shrink gun that Vector stole from Gru and proceed with their mission to steal the moon. However, along the way Gru discovers that he’s not so evil after all as the three little girls make him discover his inner Daddy. You can guess the rest.

It’s a harmless enough plot and it’s a harmless enough movie. One thing I’ll give Despicable Me is its not trying to be what it’s not. It’s a cheesy, semi-fun kid’s movie. It never really tries to be anything else, but that’s still not an excuse for mediocrity. It’s merely saying that something very average could have been very bad if it took too many risks. Instead they didn’t take enough risks and it shows. Despicable Me is definitely the kind of movie you rent on a Saturday night and watch with your family. You’ll have a decent enough time, but it’s not gonna stay with you months after you see it, like a good movie should. That’s too bad, because this movie could have been really great. That’s not to say it was bad. You’ll probably enjoy it to a degree, but all the enjoyment is on the surface. Try to peel back the layers and unfortunately, you may find this movie a bit lacking.

I’m gonna give Despicable Me a 2.5/5.

Alright before you send me all your hate mail (since everyone seemed to like that movie for some reason), let’s move on to a movie that I actually did like, a lot! That movie is this summer’s masterpiece from acclaimed director Christopher Nolan. I’m talking about Inception. This was definitely one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Let’s see if it holds up to the hype.

Inception

The answer is yes. Seriously can Christopher Nolan ever do anything wrong? This guy’s been doin’ pretty good, if I do say so myself. Now, let me preface this review by saying that I do not worship Christopher Nolan. I don’t think he’s perfect, like a lot of people seem to. I do however, think he is one of the best directors working today and he certainly does a great job at taking a great story and turning it into a great film and here the story comes from Nolan himself, and who better to direct your idea than you. Nolan seems to be making it a habit of making a Batman movie and then making a non-Batman movie (even though they always star Michael Caine) before returning to the next Batman movie. The Prestige was Nolan’s last non-Batman outing, but Inception reminded a bit more of an earlier Nolan movie; Memento, in terms of its psychological themes of balancing the real and unreal and its complex layered narrative where it may take two or three viewings to take everything in.

“What’s Inception about?” you might be asking. Likely though, you’ve already seen it or seen enough trailers/ read enough online plot synopses to know what it’s about already, but in case you haven’t, I’ll tell you. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Cobb, a man who has mastered the art of dream sharing, a process whereby people can enter into a universal dream where information can easily be stolen. Along with his partner Arthur (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) Cobb uses his abilities to enter into other people’s dreams and steal their secrets for the highest bidder. While working a job for a wealthy businessman named Saito (Played by Ken Watanabe) Cobb is hired to do the most challenging job he’s ever pulled off. He has to do something called inception, which is a process where an outside source plants an idea into someone’s head, making them believe it was their idea to begin with. It is extremely difficult to pull off however, since the human mind will easily reject an idea recognized as being from an outside source. Cobb reluctantly agrees to take the job however since Saito guarantees him safe passage back to America where he can see his kids again. Cobb has been living on the run from the law ever since he was accused of killing his own wife (played by Marion Cotillard) who keeps re-manifesting herself through Cobb’s dreams. In order to pull the job off however, he must assemble a team of specialists composed of Ellen Page as Ariadne, the “architect of the dream, Tom Hardy as Eames, an illusion specialist assigned to impersonate the victim’s father and Dileep Rao as Yusuf, a chemist who creates powerful sleeping sedatives. Together they must finally figure out a way to convince Robert Fischer, Jr. the heir to a major energy corporation (played by Cillian Murphy) to split up his father’s company. In order to do this they decide to create an extremely unstable three-layered dream, which they hope will help them successfully implant the idea into Fischer’s head.

This may sound like a lot, because it is, especially when Nolan starts adding on layer after layer of dreams into the fold. However, Nolan never hits you with too much at once, so it is possible to take it all in if you’re paying attention and you should be paying attention, because I honestly cannot remember the last time my eyes were this glued to the screen. Inception will capture you and hold you until it’s final frame. It is an enthralling, entertaining, stunning film and believe me when I say you will never be bored. Christopher Nolan is very good at taking the time to make you care about a character, especially Cobb in this case, and then wasting no time in throwing that character into the craziest, most mind-bending situation imaginable. In short, he’s a very good story-teller.

Nolan never really tries to stretch too far outside the box in terms of creative ways of shooting his action however. Everything is kept relatively clean and normal in his films, his personal style seemingly is to make everything as perfect as he can, but then leave it there, with little to no personal flair. In this case however, it actually adds to the film rather than taking away from it. Any other director would seek to constantly remind the audience that they are inside of a dream while they are inside of a dream. Nolan labours under the idea that dreams are perceived as real by the dreamer until they wake up, so the dreams are shot as normal situations that can be manipulated by the dreamer. Therefore the movie is kept from ever getting too far-fetched to keep the viewer guessing and slowly building from normal to surreal as layers of dreams and dream-logic are added to the ever-unravelling plot. The viewer is then slowly sucked into the dream world, rather than being allowed to separate themselves from it entirely right off the bat. It’s a very effective way of capturing your audiences into a world where there basically are no consequences. If you die, you just wake up … or do you?

I did have a hard time with this movie on the level of feeling threatened for this very reason however, there’s no way to actually die in a dream. It doesn’t make Nolan’s superbly directed action scenes any less riveting, but it does strip away some of the suspense. Nolan is trying to make the film just as intense as it is surreal and breath-taking, but it’s a lot easier to get surreal and breath-taking across in a dream world. Intense is a bit more challenging, though he does do a surprisingly good job to his credit. Listen to me! It’s hard for me to complain about this movie, even when I want to.

Inception was a truly wonderful film and along with Toy Story 3, easily one of the best things you could treat yourself to this summer. The last time dreams were treated this superbly was in Satoshi Kon’s anime extravaganza Paprika, which I was reminded of more than a few times while watching Inception. I almost wonder if Nolan has ever seen that film. Who knows? All I know is that Inception is crazy cool and definitely worth your hard-earned cash. Go see it!

I’m gonna give Inception 4.5/5.

So, there you have it guys. That’s my take on two of this summer’s biggest films. I hope you all liked it and don’t forget if you’re reading this review on This Week in Geek, make sure to check our Tomb of the Unknown Podcast and vice-versa. I’m really excited for this new partnership. I can’t say, “only at thisweekingeek.net” anymore, but what do I care? The more readers I get the better! I’m Double D and I’m slowly taking over the internet by storm! Mwu ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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