Movie Review – Despicable Me
A 2010 animated comedy about supervillains that is absolutely chock full of invention and surprises. It has no standard superhero or police opposing the bad guys – they just end up competing with one another, and the minions, who are simply a horde of squeaky voiced sponge-like entities known as The Minions, are wonderful.
When a villain called Vector steals the Egyptian pyramids, replacing them with bouncy castle replicas, Gru (Steve Carroll) is jealous and sets out to restore his status as the greatest villain by preparing a plan for stealing the Moon. Unfortunately, the Bank of Villainy (a clear statement against corporate banking if there ever was one) won’t give him the funding.
Gru takes in three young orphan girls, initially intent only to use them to get at Vector (who buys their charity-bake cookies), but he develops a genuine paternal love for the girls as his own Mother (voiced by Julie Andrews) never appreciated his achievements, and this comes to interfere with his dreams of owning the Moon.
I particularly like how open Gru is with his villainy, treating it as just a job, as he lives in a suburban American community, with his evil castle right in the midst of a row of terraced houses where he chats to the neighbours.
Some of the comedy is laugh out loud hilarious; as with Gru’s efforts to break in to Vector’s gadget-and-weaponry protected fortress, and Minions beating each other up. The opening scene of a child falling towards a painful death on the pyramid only to bounce off its inflatable replica is both tense and hysterical in turns.
There are flaws; the softening of Gru’s heart is rather rushed. A more gentle softening would have worked better, and would a character so used to careering round in rocket cars really be frightened on a fairground roller-coaster ride. Russell Brand and Julie Andrews are both rather under-used in the movie.
The Minions are hilarious throughout, while the orphans are rather too twee and reminiscent of Boo in Monsters Inc. Julie Andrews is great in an against type role as the acidic Mother to Gru, and Russell Brand is funny as mad-scientist assistant, Doctor Nefario.
The real surprise is that the movie is neither Pixar or Disney, but a Universal Studios production, made by Illumination, drawing heavily on French artistic talents and modern CGI techniques. With one sequel out and two more imminent (one centred specifically on The Minions) more mayhem and surprises seem inevitable.
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