The Way of the Word

18. June 2010

Review: Despicable Me

USA 2010. Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. Voices by Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews. Runtime: 95 minutes

Gru is a supervillain. He’s moderately successful at it and enjoys doing wicked little things just to stay in practice. But when someone upstages him by stealing the pyramids, he realizes that he needs to step up his plan for the crime of the century: to steal the moon. Sadly, that won’t work without a shrink ray. Annoyingly, Gru’s most irritating competitor Vector steals said shrink ray from Gru. But Gru discovers Vector’s weak spot: he loves cookies. And his suppliers are the three orphan girls Margo, Edith and Agnes. In order to penetrate Vector’s fortress, Gru adopts the girls – and gets more than he has bargained for. Because now, in addition to preparing the crime of the century, he has to deal with being a father. Which is something for which he isn’t ready. The situation he finds himself in continues to spiral out of his control until he has to decide if he wants to be the world’s greatest supervillain, or a father.

If you go into this movie expecting a new Incredibles, you will be disappointed. Despicable Me is very much a children’s movie, far more so than that animated superhero movie. The main adult characters, Gru and Vector, are still very much childlike in their own ways. And while the rivalry between Gru and Vector is the driving force of the movie, the real heart lies in the developing relationship between Gru and the girls. Children will also love Gru’s Minions. Most of the movie’s humor seems to come directly out of Loony Tunes cartoons. What child will not love the scene where Gru, after Agnes has been cheated out of the fluffy unicorn, vaporizes the offending carnival stall? Let’s face it – haven’t we all wished for a dad who would do that? Or wished to be the kind of dad who could do that? Coolest dad ever, seriously.

Most good animated movies also work on a second level: they entertain the adult as well as the child. Despicable Me delivers on this score. I saw the movie with a completely adult audience, and there was a lot of laughter. For adults, the fun lies in the absurdity of the situations and the designs. It lies in little offhand snarks that a child won’t understand, such as when the Bank of Evil is subtitled “Formerly Lehman Brothers.” It lies in the sympathy the adult audience feels when Gru desperately tries to find funding for his latest scheme, only to be told that he’s too old and too soft. Or the question whether or not Vector’s design is based on a certain software mogul. (If the cookiebots don’t make you laugh, you have no soul.) In some cases, such as Vector’s Loony Tunes defenses, the laughter is nostalgic. But whatever the reason, Despicable Me is a very funny movie even if you’re an adult. And even an adult won’t be too annoyed with the Minions. An adult, however, will definitely wonder where they have seen some of the character designs before.

I saw the 3-D version of the movie. There are a few scenes that were obviously put in to show off “Lookkit us, we’re 3-D!” (like the rollercoaster scene). Generally, however, the 3-D works very well and actually serves to enhance some of the scenes.

In summary: Despicable Me is a fun movie that the entire family can enjoy.

Verdict: Very recommended


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