Despicable Me ***

Is it worth $14 (3-D)? Yes

In a welcome change, the 3-D in “Despicable Me” looks great. Even better, the animated story is a cute and charming heart warmer that has some sly adult references (including a very subtle one to “The Godfather”) and enough playful antics to keep kids entertained.

Gru (Steve Carell) fancies himself the world’s number one super villain. But when an up-and-coming villain named Vector (Jason Segel) steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru meets his match. Sure, Gru and his little yellow “Minions” have stolen stuff like the jumbo TV screen in Times Square, but in order to top Vector he looks beyond the planet for his answer: the moon. Unfortunately, Vector has stolen the shrink ray Gru needs to steal the moon, and Vector’s home is so well protected Gru can’t even get close.

Inspiration, however, strikes in the unlikeliest of places. When Gru sees three little girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) selling cookies and walking through Vector’s front door, he adopts the girls and uses them to get to Vector.

Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud don’t tell a very original story, but they do tell one that knows its audience and entertains it immensely. There are two aerial action sequences that are nicely done, and a roller coaster scene that (with 3-D) makes you feel like you’re along for the ride. The boys (ages 7 and 9) who joined me for the movie especially liked the Minions. Throw in standard pratfalls and other physical comedy hi-jinks and you have a movie the whole family can enjoy, including parents.

The 3-D looks sharp and often has a clear foreground, middle ground and background, which means it actually has three discernible dimensions to enjoy. As a trend, it seems the 3-D in computer-generated animated movies (“How To Train Your Dragon”) is notably more impressive than live action films (the calamitous “The Last Airbender”). Even “Toy Story 3,” which did not thrill me with its 3-D, looked better than any live action 3-D product we’ve seen. Note: James Cameron’s “Avatar” may have felt like live action, but don’t forget Pandora was created inside a computer.

With 3-D here to stay for a while, here’s my advice: If it’s animated and the word on the street says the movie is as fun and as sweet as “Despicable Me,” pay the extra money and watch it in 3-D. If it’s live action, don’t pay for 3-D under any circumstances. Doing so would be despicable.

Did you know?

In setting perhaps the worst precedent in the history of movie going, the “Best Buy Movie Mode” app, which works on iPhone, Android and Blackberry phones, will translate what the yellow, Peeps-looking Minions say over the final credits. Your phone has to be on (and set to silent!) during the film for it to work, but allegedly the app disables your ring and discourages texting. Allegedly.



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