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Adorably Despicable 

Steve Carrell shows off his vocal range in a cutesy, humor-filled animated villain-fest.

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It’s good to have goals in life. The main one for Gru (voice of Steve Carrell) is to become the greatest villain of all time, a specialist in stealing big famous things.

Alas, even with his laboratory run by the nefarious Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, his voice dropped an octave) and his minions of minions (little yellow creatures in blue coveralls who bicker all the time), the only object of any merit that he’s swiped so far is the Times Square Jumbotron.

Meanwhile, some unknown villain has managed to get away with the Great Pyramid of Giza, replacing it with a rubber replica. What’s a klepto-criminal to do?

Why, shoot for the moon! And by that we mean: steal it. Gru assembles his minions to explain his plan: Build a rocket, fly to the moon, reduce its size with a shrinking ray, take it.

Of course, funding is needed, obviously from that special bank downtown that deals in evil loans.

And something’s got to be done about the fact that villainous Vector (Jason Segel), the pot-bellied guy with the Moe haircut, has stolen that shrinking ray from Gru, who had initially stolen it from ... but wait, things are becoming a bit complicated here.

And that’s before we get to know the three terribly cute orphans — Margo, Edith and Agnes — who are waiting to be adopted over at Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls, earning their keep by selling cookies door to door so nasty Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig) won’t put them in the “Box of Shame.”

The story that complements the film’s by-now expected state-of-the-art animation works from a carefully constructed, minutely detailed script that makes sure every dot connects to every other. For instance, wouldn’t you know that Vector has a weakness for certain cookies, and that Gru and Dr. Nefario have been working on a plan to create cookie robots, and that Gru is figuring out a way to get those little cookie-selling girls to do a little dirty work for him? There are moments when all of those “coincidences” lean toward feeling forced, of fitting together too neatly, rather than coming across as surprises.

But there are many more instances when the sight gags come flying so relentlessly that you stop thinking about the film’s minor glitches. Steve Carrell takes every opportunity to show off his aptitude for creating laughs via his character’s chronically short fuse (especially around those girls). He gives great vocal exasperation, going nicely over the top with a heavy Russian accent, and the artists do the rest with wild facial expressions and body language.

The story and its components take some very goofy turns, running from one character actually getting to the moon to a down-to-earth dance recital to Gru’s many bigger-than-life modes of transportation. The plot takes on a quasi-serious note when it forays into the importance of family, and it’s revealed that Gru has some deep-rooted mother issues. Wearing great big red glasses that will not make any waves in the fashion world and sporting a chin larger than Jay Leno’s, Mom is wonderfully voiced by Julie Andrews and spends most of her screen time badgering Gru for not being a more successful villain.

Because the film can easily fit under the category of a combination science fiction epic/James Bond-like adventure, it’s perfectly apt that the blaring score sounds like it comes right out of a Roger Moore-era Bond film. But the far more frantic Despicable Me turns out to be both a lot cutesier and funnier.

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