Peter Eramo Reviews: “Cyrus” and “Despicable Me”

While every film nut is desperately awaiting the release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, I was able to take in a couple of movies this weekend to try and fill in the void. Now, I am not nearly as confident as everyone else seems to be about Nolan’s latest work (I remain cautiously optimistic), but I was expecting to see two good films in Cyrus and the new animated feature Despicable Me. It’s odd because I would rate each film 2 ½ stars, but would recommend the “strong” 2 ½ star film, while suggesting you wait to catch the other on DVD or if it’s playing on cable. I’ll start with Jay and Mark Duplass’ dark comedy, Cyrus.

Cyrus has a lot going for it, starting with its impressive cast of John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener and the gorgeous Marisa Tomei. Reilly plays John, who has been divorced for seven years and is still not quite over the hurt of it all. His life has been in a tailspin since, as he lives in a shoddy little apartment and doesn’t ever get out and socialize much. He meets the girl of his dreams in Molly (Tomei) and they hit it off quite well. That is, until he meets her 21-year old son, Cyrus (Hill) who has a lot of twisted Oedipal issues going on inside that little eccentric brain of his. A battle of wits begins between John who is trying to get closer to this wonderful woman he has just met and Cyrus, who will do anything within his power to see that he is out of their lives forever.

I must say that Hill is pretty convincing here in a darker role that we are not accustomed to seeing him in. The way he looks at his nemesis throughout is pretty freaky, with eyes that just seem to pierce through the screen. Reilly is perfect for playing the lovable, awkward loser and his chemistry with Tomei is convincing enough, though I not sure if I ever really bought into them hooking up in the first place. You see, they meet at a party and watching him try to speak to a few of the women there is pretty painful to watch. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but I didn’t find it very humorous as I just sat and squirmed in my seat watching his failed attempts at finding his soul mate. The idea that Molly would be turned on by this was far-fetched to me. I also felt that the Duplass brothers could have taken this premise so much further (as they wrote and directed the film together), but settled for a fairly predictable 2nd and 3rd act. You could surely see how this was all going to play out.

I guess in the end I didn’t find the film to be all that funny. Sure, there were some funny moments between Reilly and his counterpart and I thought his first scene with Tomei was charming and witty, but it felt much more like a drama to me, which is absolutely fine. Also, I didn’t find the abnormally close relationship between mother-and-son here to be all that realistic. I give the Duplass brothers credit for not going over-the-top here, as they could have easily done. Instead, they go for real, genuine moments and the motives of the characters are believable throughout. This is not a bad film by any means – I just felt there could have been so much more and even with all the crap that is permeating theatres at the moment, I would recommend that you see this one at home rather than pay the $10 in the theatre.

Director: Mark and Jay Duplass
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Cyrus, click here.

Universal Pictures’ new animated feature Despicable Me (which grossed an astounding $60m in its opening weekend) is a very different kind of comedy, of course. I must first say that I enjoyed this film very much and laughed quite a bit. Steve Carell is the voice of Gru, a super villain who takes great delight in all things wicked. At the moment, he is facing stiff competition from an up-and-coming, younger villain in Vector (voiced by Jason Segal) who has just stolen a world-famous Egyptian pyramid. So Gru is now in the midst of planning the world’s greatest heist of all – with the help of his army of little minions, he plans on stealing the moon! Vector steals the almighty shrink ray from Gru, so now Gru must find a way into the very secure home of his worthy archenemy. To do so, Gru adopts three little girls from an orphanage who want nothing in life but a loving parent. Gru seems to have faced many great trials in his life, but nothing compares to the challenge of these three sweeties who see something in Gru that no one else ever has.

Carell’s voice for Gru is terrific and made me laugh throughout. He’s got a lot of great lines here and is the source of most of the film’s comedy. The actions of his many little yellow minions also made for some great comedy. The three little girls are adorable, especially the voice of Elsie Fisher’s Agnes, the youngest of the lot. Seeing the relationship between the devilish Gru and the girls grow is also rather sweet.

Compared to other animated films though, Despicable Me sadly falls a bit short and that lies with the prescribed storyline. The character of Gru was funny, but not much else really is. I enjoyed it, but could not help feeling that so much more could have happened here. I think kids will certainly love the film and have a great experience with it. However, I’m not so sure about most adults. Most of the new animated features work on both levels, engaging an adult audience just as much as the kids they appear to be catered to. Despicable Me doesn’t offer much more than a very funny front man and the crazy little minions (who I loved) — but no other characters really stand out. I don’t know if I am nit-picking on an animated film, but I also felt the way in which Gru learns to love the three girls was far too easy and not fully developed. All in all though, it is a sweet film with a big heart and I would highly recommend taking kids to see it. Looking at it a bit more critically, it just misses measuring up to some of the “better” animated films such as Happy Feet, Over the Hedge, or Monsters, Inc.

Director: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Year: 2010

To view the trailer for Despicable Me, click here.


11 Responses to Peter Eramo Reviews: “Cyrus” and “Despicable Me”

  1. Dan says:

    That’s often the problem with the non-Pixar films. They’re bandwagon jumpers for the most part – Pixar sets the trend and the benchmark, everyone else tries to reach it and fails. Despicable Me sounds like a film made to jump on the 3D bandwagon. And, instead of focusing on character and story, they’ve just paid out for the box office-grabbing star names.

    • It sounds harsh, but I can’t argue that. I don’t want to say that Pixar is the benchmark, but they have had a great output of films in recent years. Again, funny – but not as strong as others…

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Despicable Me looks funny, but at the same time, very predictable.

  3. Corey says:

    These are two movies that I’ve actually been looking forward to seeing….in fact, if it wasn’t for Inception coming out this weekend, I would probably be going to see Despicable Me. I think I’ll wait for Cyrus to come out on DVD though.

    • Both are worth seeing, for sure. I don’t understand the Inception-mania. I worried it will be so pretentious and in awe of its own self to make sense out of the Dreamscape/Matrix-like story.

      • Corey says:

        I see what you’re saying about Inception, and you could be right. But as a Christopher Nolan fan I’m still pretty excited to see it this weekend. Hopefully I can be unbiased when judging it, although that may be difficult.

  4. Nora says:

    Once again, thanks for saving me $$… still curious about “Cyrus” but will wait for DVD.

  5. rtm says:

    First let me say I, too, am cautiously optimistic about Inception… it’s tough to curb our enthusiasm though, when practically all the critics fall over each other in praising it.

    I might check out Despicable Me on dvd, I love Carell, I mean even his voice sounds funny! But I usually don’t watch animated flicks at the theater unless it’s from Pixar… I was tempted to see that Dragon one but it ended up being a dvd viewing as well. I LOVE Monsters, Inc! Now that’s a tough act to follow and looks like from your review this one didn’t quite live up to that.

    As for Cyrus, for some reason nothing about it appeals to me… I probably skip this one altogether.

    • Yeah, critics get gaga over Nolan. I loved Insomnia and Memento is very clever but I think overrated by many. I always feel like the 3rd Act of his movies fall into an abyss. I am just hoping that Inception is not “strange for the sake of being strange” as I am worried it will be. Definitely catch Despicable Me on DVD — it is very funny and Carell is great!

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