Despicable Me (2010) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for rude humor and mild action
Running time: 95 min.
Cast (voices): Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Pierre Coffin, Jemaine Clement, Chris Renaud
Small role (voices): Mindy Kaling, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Rob Huebel, Ken Jeong
Director: Pierr Coffin, Chris Renaud
Screenplay: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Review published July 3, 2013
Despicable Me starts off with the unlikely theft of one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, in a move so deft that lifelong evil mastermind, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell, Get Smart), feels jealous that he can't match such a nefarious deed that is felt the world over. Not to be outdone, Gru devises a plan to snake a shrink-ray and use it to reduce Earth's natural satellite to softball size and steal it away. However, his plans are thwarted when a rival mad genius named Vector (Segel, I Love You Man) steals the shrink-ray from under Gru's nose. Gru must get it back, with the help of his diminutive minions, and knowing about Vector's inability to resist sweets, he hatches a scheme to employee three orphan girls to sell cookies that, in actuality, are robots to him and infiltrate his lair to take over and gain back the shrink-ray.
Despicable Me is an amiable animated family comedy that will likely please young and old alike, with enough crude humor to keep kiddies giggling, while grown-ups will enjoy the themes on what it means to be a responsible adult. It doesn't start off as an affecting tale, as our "hero" is actually a super-villain who lives to make as many other people as miserable as possible, the kind who will make a crying child a balloon animal just so he can pop it and make him cry even harder. However, underneath the rivalry between two criminal masterminds for who can commit the most heinous deeds, a separate story emerges about a boy who was denied the love of his mother (Andrews, Enchanted), and orphans who desperately crave a father figure in their lives.
The film succeeds due to its emphasis on the main character at the heart of what ends up being a bit of a character study, who undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts that feels fairly unique in the world of children's animated fare. In this way, the movie is more than just a bunch of cute distractions, clever quips and sight gags. Despite its underlying emotional content, the tempo is standard stuff, and the injection of dance numbers roots it as an evolutionary animated feature, not a revolutionary one. The score and soul tunes by Pharrell Williams are an odd but effective touch.
The animation is well done but nothing remarkable in comparison with other standard 3D animated fare, and the character of Gru himself isn't exactly the most appealing, with his strange and (intentionally) ugly look. His angular stance, his beaked nose, his odd accent, his dark garb, his large frame with spindly limbs -- not exactly the kind of guy kids would find instantly endearing, unless they enjoy 'Gargamel' types. He has a mean disposition and an uncaring stance for others -- and yet, we come around to liking the guy as he struggles to figure out his identity in life. Such things as his appearance doesn't matter once we see there is more to him inside, just as the movie wins us over despite its flaws.
Kids will likely love Despicable Me the most, followed by parents, and even adults without children may also enjoy it, provided they don't mind an animated family flick. Thesaurus.com lists the antonyms of "despicable" as "alluring, appealing, delightful, desirable, enjoyable, likeable, lovable, pleasant, sweet, wonderful". I'd say that's about as good a review of this film as any from my point of view.
-- Followed by Despicable Me 2 (2013)
©2013 Vince Leo