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DESPICABLE ME

"Despicable Me” begins with the truth that villains are often more fascinating than heroes and creates a villain named Gru, who freeze-dries the people ahead of him in line at Starbucks and pops children's balloons. Although he's inspired by many a James Bond bad guy, two things set him apart: (1) His vast mad scientist lair is located not in the desert or on the moon, but in the basement of his suburban home, and (2) He dreams not of world control so much as merely dominating the cable news ratings as the Greatest Villain of All Time.

To make a villain into the hero of an animated comedy is daring, but the filmmakers bring in three cute kids to restore good feelings. They are Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Gru finds them at his friendly neighborhood orphanage, run by the suspicious Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig). His plan is to keep them at his home until his moon scheme is ready to hatch, and then use them to infiltrate Vector's home by subterfuge — pretending to sell cookies, say. It follows as the night does the day that the orphans will work their little girl magic on Gru and gradually force the revelation that the big lug has a heart, after all.

“Despicable Me” lacks a franchise to ride into town on, but it may establish one. I'm not sure how Gru can think up anything more sensational than stealing the moon, but I'm sure Dr. Nefario is working on that as we speak. The film is funny, energetic, teeth-gnashingly venomous and animated with an eye to exploiting the 3-D process with such sure-fire techniques as a visit to an amusement park.

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