Despicable Me. Princesses? Nah, super villains!
As far as international super villains go, Gru (Steve Carell) has no rivals...until now. His reputation takes a major hit when the Great Pyramid in Giza is stolen and replaced by an up and coming villain with all sorts of potential for mayhem, Vector (Jason Segel). His solution is extreme and drastic but will no doubt bring all his doubters back around. Gru's going to steal...the MOON! The problem? Vector has already stolen a newly developed shrink ray he needs to use to pull the job off. His solution is an odd one as Gru adopts three young orphan girls who will unknowingly cause a diversion that allows him to get into Vector's heavily guarded lair. What Gru sees as a smash and grab job concerning the adoption just isn't so simple. The super villain may have bit off far more than he hoped, and there's no going back.
From directors Pierre Louis Padang Coffin (yes, that's a name) and Chris Renaud, 'Despicable' was a huge success upon its initial release, earning over $540 million. It spawned a sequel -- released this summer -- that was an even bigger success -- that has currently made over $800 million worldwide. What's the appeal that spawned such a worldwide success? I think it's a lot of things. The animation from Illumination Entertainment is unique, well-made and polished while not screaming out "LOOK AT THIS CGI!" More than that though, I think it's the story which isn't a typical animated storyline. It's dark at times (maybe a little too dark), but it is original, always entertaining and smart. Usually the super villain is quite obviously the bad guy so seeing him as a bad guy who's not so bad provides a great change of pace. Oh, and Gru's minions. This movie wouldn't have the same success without them, but more on those cute yellow guys later.
The heart of the movie comes from Gru and his ulterior motive intentions in adopting three little girls who live at an orphanage run by Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig). Carell as Gru is a great choice, his voice talents making this super villain a goofy-looking, Eastern European sounding mastermind. His look with his chicken legs, bald head and ever-present scarf is quite the visual too. He's one mean guy though, softened some and surprisingly when he adopts, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), the oldest of the girls and very smart/aware, Edith (Dana Gaier), the middle girl and quirkiest of the crew, always wearing a ski cap low on her eyes, and Agnes (Elsie Fisher), the youngest and cutest girl who loves unicorns more than anything in the world. It's fun to see mean, gruff Gru go from complete confusion at how to care for three little girls to slowly warming up to them as they help him and stay in his huge super villain mansion.
As for the rest of the voice talent assembled, they do some good work. Jason Segel seems unlikely casting to play Vector, but it works, this nerdy and smart super villain proving quite the quirky opponent to the more experienced Gru. Russell Brand does a fine job as Dr. Nefario, an aging assistant who's worked with Gru for years on countless dastardly deeds with Julie Andrews playing Gru's hard to impress mother. Along with Wiig, also listen for Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer, Mindy Kaling, Rob Huebel and Ken Jeong lending their voices.
Onto the minions! While Gru's story with the little girls is the heart of the movie, what most viewers came away with was a love for the adorable little yellow minions. Standing about knee high, these yellow guys wear overalls and goggles over their one or two big, round eyes. Their hair is pointy, parted and not there at all. Directors Coffin and Renaud with Jemaine Clement provide their voices, usually unintelligible gibberish with occasional moments of clarity. They are really cute, really adorable and really funny, most of the time helping Gru's directives but causing their fair share of mayhem in the process. It's their look, it's their giggling and laughing, their love of exploring and curiosity...which usually leads to more trouble. They're essential additions to the cast and helping make this more than just any old animated movie. And yes, the minions are slated for their own spin-off, scheduled for December 2014. Watch a sample of their shenanigans HERE.
It took me awhile to catch up with this one, but I'm glad I did. Surprisingly funny for kids and adults with a ton to recommend. Mostly though........minions! Hopefully I can find the sequel in a second-run theater and catch up with that one too.
Despicable Me (2010): ***/****