Judge Paul Pritchard's most despicable crime is not putting the toilet seat back down.
"It's so FLUFFY!"
"When we got adopted by a bald guy, I thought this'd be more like Annie."
Facts of the Case
Gru (Steve Carell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) is a super villain with aspirations of greatness. With his army of minions, and the help of mad scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, Get Him To The Greek), Gru has stolen both the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower…but sadly only the mini-versions from Vegas. Making matters worse is the arrival of a new super villain, Vector (Jason Segel, I Love You, Man). Having pulled of the crime of the century, which saw him steal the Pyramid of Giza, Vector is at the top of the tree.
To usurp this upstart, Gru plots a most audacious crime: he will steal the moon! All he needs is a shrink ray—currently held in a top-secret research facility in Asia—and funding to build the rocket that will transport him to the moon. Unfortunately, due to his recent failings, the bank are unwilling to back his latest heist. What's more, Vector latches onto Gru's scheme, and sabotages his plans—taking the shrink ray in the process.
Gru, who is in no mood to play second fiddle to this new kid on the block, devises a devious plan to get revenge, and all he needs to do is coerce three orphans, Margo, Edith, and Agnes, into helping him.
Containing a whole lot of heart, not to mention more than just a dash of invention, Despicable Me is that most rare thing: a non-Pixar movie the whole family can (and most likely will) enjoy. Though opening with a sly dig at Pixar, in which one of Gru's Minions takes the place of Pixar's Luxo, Universal's first CGI feature does enough to stand out as its own beast.
In terms of story, Despicable Me shares numerous traits found in a whole host of other family films, Pixar's back catalogue included. But where Despicable Me differs, is in its casting of a villain as its hero. Gru, who visually combines Danny Devito's Oswald Cobblepot (Batman Returns) with Uncle Fester (The Addams Family), is a super villain more interested in the level of infamy he is able to achieve than world domination. Despite being the lead, Gru is just one of many memorable characters. The Orphans who unwittingly become part of Gru's plans, though admittedly lacking originality, are so endearing—especially Unicorn loving Agnes—that you just won't care. Vector, who quickly becomes the bane of Gru's life, is a great villain to root against. There's an almost a childlike mentality to his actions, with a boastful nature that just begs to be punished.
A delightfully wicked sense of humor runs through the core of Despicable Me, which is at its best when Gru's initial apathy towards Margo, Edith, and Agnes is made evident. Gru's wonderfully cruel quips are sure to have watching adults in fits of laughter. Having apparently seen one of the girls skewered in an iron maiden (that Gru keeps in his kitchen), he casually remarks, "the plan can work with two." His scant disregard for the girl's fear of the dark is also pleasantly refreshing, as he gleefully informs them that there's probably a monster in their closet as they settle down for the night. Cleverly, writer Ken Daurio's screenplay varies its humor, so along with the great one-liners ("Ah, curse you tiny toilet!") we get everything from fart guns to Looney Tunes style spats between Gru and Vector. Kids' should find as many laughs here as adults, with the Minions—wonderful creations who are often on the wrong end of Gru's experiments—being a source of much amusement and coming close to stealing the show.
As the film progresses, the laughs inevitably begin to take a backseat to the emotional arc that takes over. But this isn't a bad thing; not at all. Gru's softening, which admittedly is telegraphed a little too quickly for my liking, allows for some wonderful moments. Having been royally screwed by a rigged game at the fairground, Gru quickly comes to the defense of his young charges, resulting in both a good belly laugh and a nice warm feeling inside that continues right through to the closing credits.
The voice talent on display is excellent, but special praise should be awarded Steve Carell and Jason Segel. Like the rest of the cast, the two leads twist their voices to the point of being almost unrecognizable, and in the process bring their already bizarre characters to life, despite sharing barely a single physical trait with their virtual counterparts.
Universal brings Despicable Me to DVD with a top class 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Colors are rich and bold, with black levels bringing added depth to the picture, which is never less than sharp. Though obviously not up to the standards of the Blu-ray, the DVD still offers a strong image. Audio is just as impressive, with clear dialogue, even during more action packed scenes where the score and numerous special effects all compete for your attention.
The single disc edition presented here for review comes with a handful of extras. Kicking off with the commentary, courtesy of co-directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. Informative for the most part, the track is livened up by the occasional interruption by the minions. A series of short featurettes: "The World of Despicable Me," "Despicable Beats," "Gru's Rocket Builder," and "A Global Effort" round out the set; none of which are particularly interesting.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My son, who is just nearing two-years-old, adored Despicable Me, so much so that he's watched it five times in three days. Impressive. But, thanks to the film's repeated use of the term, I now have a toddler repeating the line, "Oh, Poop!" whenever something goes wrong.
To borrow that much used phrase, Despicable Me is fun for the whole family. Though there are a few gags that go over the heads of the little ones, the humor is universal and suitable for all ages. The story moves along with measured pacing, and though not up to the standards of Toy Story 3, the combination of the dastardly and the dear make Despicable Me an essential purchase for your next family movie night.
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