Movie Review: Despicable Me (2010)

Gru (Steve Carell) and his minions in Despicable Me
Photo: Universal Pictures

Despicable Me is a welcome animated entry into Summer 2010 and may prove to be Universal’s very own How To Train Your Dragon. This is to say it’s a film that pushes aside the need for pop culture references and poop jokes (outside of the addition of a “fart gun”) with a larger interest in telling a fun and entertaining story. In fact, contrary to its title, many will likely describe Despicable Me as a “sweet” story centered on the likable villain Gru voiced by Steve Carell.

Gru has stolen the Statue of Liberty… from Las Vegas. He’s stolen the Times Square Jumbotron as well as the Eiffel Tower… also from Las Vegas. Despite these “accomplishments” he’s looked at as a failed villain, but his next heist is likely to earn him more fame than he could possibly imagine. He’s planning on stealing the moon!

Surrounded by thousands of unintelligible and hilarious “minions” (think rubber Twinkies with eyeballs), aided by Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand) and yearning for the love of his mother, Gru has everything he needs to pull off the heist… that is except for the shrink ray that will turn the moon into a pocket-sized trinket he can safely transport back to Earth. But that’s a plot point best left for you to discover on your own.

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud this film takes every imaginable emotion and runs it through the ringer with “cute” being the descriptor that shines most prominently by the end of the film. In order for Gru to fulfill his mission he adopts three orphans – Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) – and as if that wasn’t enough cookie robots play a role in this caper’s outcome. If that isn’t cute than I don’t know what is.

Carell voices Gru with something of a Russian accent that for some reason reminded me of the Scottish accent Mike Myers used for Shrek, but all I could think about was how much more I liked this character. He may be a villain, but it isn’t long before his growing relationship with his three adopted daughters wins you over.

And despite being a villain, Gru doesn’t punish his little worker minions as they seem to look upon him as a loving father rather than an evil overlord. This isn’t a movie hell-bent on projecting evil or cheap laughs. It appeals to both genders with cool gadgets and explosions for the boys and unicorns and bedtime stories for the girls. It’s a kid’s film at heart, and that heart is exactly what both the youngsters and adults in the audiences will come to enjoy.

The voices of Jason Segel and Russell Brand are hardly recognizable, but Segel in particular really delivers as Gru’s nemesis, the new villain on the block, Vector. You’ll recognize the voice of “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer in an excellent carnival scene that serves as the moment in the film it really turns the corner and excels until the end. Names such as Jemaine Clement (“The Flight of the Conchords”) and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express) voice a pair of Gru’s minions, but I dare you to figure out which ones (I couldn’t). And Will Arnett and Kristen Wiig also add their voices to the production and unless you’re trying to figure just who they play you’ll likely be too caught up in the film to worry about that either.

Fact is, this is just a fun film. If I were to even try and point out a flaw it would be to say it’s a rather busy flick as the plot rarely calms down for a breather. But it’s hard to fault a film that may try a bit too hard, and in the process never ends up failing. Despicable Me is a winner through and through and one I expect families may be eager to see more than once.