Animated film (2010). Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment. Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, based on a story by Sergio Pablos. Cast includes Russell Brand, Steve Carell and Jason Segal. 91 minutes. Colour.
A suburban super-Villain has a simple dream: to steal the Moon. All that stands in his way is a younger, slicker super-villain and three adorable orphans. Will Gru (Carell) triumph over his callow colleague whilst learning the importance of love with his new surrogate family? The question need hardly be asked.
It was Despicable Me's misfortune to be released in the same year as Megamind (2010), a far superior exploration of a super-villain's transition from Antihero to actual Hero. This is an altogether hammier and more childish film, though it does have its moments. In a nod to the practical Economics of super-crime which contrasts nicely with the exaggeration elsewhere, the only person Gru is scared of is his bank manager, an employee of the Bank of Evil (formally Lehman Brothers – the only touch of Satire). The three young sisters – particularly the youngest – genuinely are adorable without being too sickly. Equally adorable are Gru's little yellow minions, all with the limited, excitable vocabulary of characters in a Videogame (they are predominantly voiced by the co-directors Renaud and Coffin). Unfortunately these are the better performances; Carell and Brand (as Gru's assistant Dr Nefario) fail to give their characters much life beyond their accents. This sense of going through the motions is reflected in the extremely predictable plot and reliance on broad Humour.
Despite these failings, the film was a commercial success and a soporific sequel, Despicable Me 2, was released in 2013. Episodic and feeling longer than its 98 minutes, the script from Paul and Daurio mostly ignores its perfunctory save-the-world plot to focus on the far more important topic of finding Gru a date. As the film's target audience might put it: ewww. The girls are still good value and there is a puerile but well-timed riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), but otherwise there is precious little here to hold the interest. [ML]
see also: Children's SF; Cinema; Superheroes.
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