With Stars in Their Throats

Gru, right, is voiced by Steve Carell.

Gru, right, is voiced by Steve Carell.

Last weekend, I saw “Despicable Me 2,” mostly because my son wanted to see it. Also because those minions are funny. Also because I could write about it and expense my ticket.

When the credits started, I was struck by the number of celebrities voicing characters. In addition to Steve Carell as the main guy, the film features Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand and Ken Jeong. And all of those voices — even though Carell, Bratt and Jeong use accents — are instantly recognizable.

In my day (GET OFF MY LAWN), voice acting was done by, well, voice actors. I remember the casting of Robin Williams as the voice of the genie in “Aladdin” being pretty big news, but that choice worked because the genie essentially was Robin Williams.

Now we have Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Samuel L. Jackson in “Turbo” and Dane Cook, Brad Garrett and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “Planes.” And why? Kids don’t care that Snoop Dogg is voicing a character named Smoove Move. I can’t believe parents are buying tickets to hear Val Kilmer talk. It’s not that these actors can’t perform the very specific, very difficult task of embodying a character who is not physically there — it’s just that their voices usually add very little and often detract from the film.

Contrast that with “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” the animated show currently destroying my Netflix recommendations. Diedrich Bader is Batman (Bader is that guy from “The Drew Carey Show” and the next-door neighbor in “Office Space”), but I didn’t know that until I looked it up. I’ve never spotted a celebrity voice, and the show is better for it. When I watch, I don’t hear John DiMaggio. I hear Aquaman.

Voice stunt-casting has been done so much, it’s not even a stunt anymore. It’s lazy, boring and largely pointless. An animated character needs his or her own voice — not one borrowed from someone else.

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