Unreal Movie Review: Despicable Me


With Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon and Pixar’s Toy Story 3 currently reigning as the two best films of the year, it’s easy to get swept up in animated fever. And now, Sony is trying to capitalize on the current climate favorable toward CGI with a fun little entry of their own, Despicable Me.

And while it’s a good kids movie to be sure, Despicable Me is certainly a kids movie, whereas everyone now recognizes Pixar projects as solid films period, complete with great dramatic tension and comedic timing.

Despicable Me is just a class lower than Dragon and Toy Story. It’s fun to be sure, and there are enough laughs to make it a worthwhile endeavor, but ultimately it’s minor league compared to the animation big guns we’ve seen out recently.

Gru (Steve Carell) is a supervillain in a world where supervillains aren’t really that evil. Since we’re going G-rated here, the most heinous a person can be in this world is popping a child’s balloon or stealing national landmarks.

After a stretch of failures and only moderate successes (swiping mini-landmarks from Vegas), Gru tells his minions (tiny little pill-shaped beings who provide much of the film’s laughs) that he’s got a grand new plan. He’s going to steal…THE MOON!


Fact: Jason Segel does not have a distinctive voice.

The plan is to first nab a shrink ray, then build a rocket and point the ray at the moon, subsequently making it the size of a volleyball. The only hitch is that the shrink ray resides in the impenetrable fortress of his rival, the newcomer to the supervillain game, Vector (Jason Segel), who’s dastardly deeds have both “direction and magnitude” (one of the films better jokes if you ask me). He’s recently dazzled the Bank of Evil (who funds all supervillain projects) with his theft of the Great Pyramid, and Gru is hoping his new moon stealing plan will dwarf that accomplishment (nevermind that half the world will probably be completely underwater because of the moonless sky).

After getting his ass handed to him by Vector’s security system in ways that would make Will E. Coyote cry, Gru watches three little orphan girls waltz through his gate and take cookie orders from Vector, and devises the best way to invade the palace is to adopt the girls and send them in as Trojan-horse bearing spies.


Security system courtesy of ACME.

This is the genesis for the film’s major plotline, Gru dealing with three little girls who have a varying range of adorableness. There’s the leader, intelligent Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), spunky Edith (Dana Gaier) and the precious Agnes (Elsie Fisher) whose obsession with unicorns and childlike sense of wonder makes everything that comes out of her mouth inescapable “awww” fodder. In a good way. Kind of reminds me of a certain girlfriend I might have who is always saying adorable things, though the elephant is her animal of choice.

It just seems like all too obvious of a character arc for Gru to grow to love the girls as his own after being annoyed with them touching his laser guns and acid flasks for a set period of time. Despite a fundamentally original concept, the “guy who doesn’t want kids gets them and ends up loving them” is something we’ve seen many times before, making the conclusion of the film pretty inevitable.

Not to say it isn’t well done. Gru’s interaction with the girls is quite funny and ends up being touching, though in a heavy handed way. I think one of the main problems is that Gru never really was that bad of a guy to start with, balloon popping and landmark stealing aside, so to see him transformed into a loving father isn’t exactly a huge stretch of the imagination.


But…ugly people can’t love kids!

I also thought the film could have used a stronger villain. Pitting two supervillains against each other in a world presumably without superheroes is a strange thought, but Vector really is just annoying rather than menacing in any way. He’s that kid on the playground with glasses and a bad haircut who stole your Tonka truck and hid it in the tube slide. Frustrating yes, but you wouldn’t make an entire movie based around his antics.

I guess I can’t expect all kids movies to be for adults as well, as Pixar has spoiled me over the years. Despicable Me is a good compromise, as it is enjoyable, it’s just not terribly profound or fundamentally original. The kids will love it, you will be mildly amused and will probably be wishing you could see it again when your kids are dragging you to The Smurfs in a few months.

3 out of 5 stars

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One Comment

  1. Damn you Pixar for spoiling us with good animation movies!

    Anyways, I figured that’s how the movie was going to end as soon as I saw the trailer that involved the three girls. Granted, I didn’t know why they were there, but I figured as much.

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