Richard’s Year of Movies — Singin’ in the Rain and Despicable Me

These two films are actually quite similar — both feature characters ripped out of their familiar worlds and forced to deal with new circumstances that challenge their previously-held beliefs, and if you think I’m keeping that comparison up for another couple of paragraphs, you’ve been reading the wrong blog.

I’m pretty convinced that if Gene Kelly were still alive, I’d be single.  Even if he was ambling around with a walker, my wife would run off with him in a heartbeat.  Or scoot slowly along the sidewalk with him in a heartbeat, as the case may be.  I think what makes Kelly so appealing is the inherent masculinity he brings to what’s commonly perceived as a feminine art.  There’s a strength attached to his grace that for me, someone who can’t bring himself to watch dance in general, makes him compulsively watchable.  He’s a dance it’s okay for guys to like.  The metric ton of charisma he was blessed with sure doesn’t hurt either; even in a non-musical role like the one he played in Inherit the Wind, he brought the charm like nobody’s business.  He even managed to get out of Xanadu pretty unscathed, which is really saying something.

Speaking of dancing it’s okay for guys to like, dear sweet lord Cyd Charisse in this.  If she were still alive, after Hannah ran off with Gene Kelly, I’d run off with Charisse as an act of retribution.  And you’re really not going to find a better comic performance than Jean Hagen in this.  And then there’s Debbie Reynolds, holding her own with Kelly.  Really, for a film so firmly entrenched in people’s minds as a Gene Kelly film, the women in the cast really deserve a lot of the credit for the film’s success.

Just as Kelly (and Singin in the Rain itself) had things to appeal to both men and women, Despicable Me seems to be trying to win over the boys and the girls at the same time.  Hey look, stuff blowing up! Aw look, cute little orphans!  Hey look, stuff blowing up to save cute little orphans!  To be fair, it all works a lot better than that, although I think I would have liked the film more had it stayed focused on the world of the villains.  There’s a scene where Gru goes to the Bank of Evil to secure a loan for his latest evil scheme, and I was hoping we’d see a grand array of other villains, all trying to convince some loan officer that their plan was worth bank-rolling.  There’s a whole shadowy world the film hints at that I would have really liked to have seen explored, and a real Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote-style story of the rivalry between Gru and Vector would have been a blast.

We went the 3D route, since I’d heard the film played around a bit with the format, but aside from a cute end credits sequence and a scene on a roller coaster, I probably could have done without it.  Sure there’s some depth and sense of scale to some scenes, but you know, I’ve gone 40+ years with the depth and sense of scale from a regular old movie, without the extra eight bucks tacked on for a pair of glasses I don’t even get to keep.  3D isn’t going to make that first shot from Star Wars any more memorable, or make Jaws any scarier.  I’m really waiting for this whole fad to implode on itself so we can be done with it and stop having the process slapped onto films which weren’t designed for it.  Besides, I want 3D, I can just, oh, I don’t know, look out a window.

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