There are no heroes in Despicable Me, only ambitious, publicity-hungry super villains bent not on world domination, but on domination of the world’s (dis)esteem. Reigning villain extraordinaire Gru (Steve Carell) and his ne’er-do-welling nemesis Vector (Jason Segel) want nothing more than to be the best at being bad.
They compete against each other in a battle of oneupmanship – Gru steals the Times Square Jumbotron, Vector steals the Great Pyramid, and then they both try to steal the Moon. This contest of purloining landmarks (Can the moon be called a “landmark?”) forms the skeletal structure of Despicable Me and is entertaining enough on its own.
The film is fleshed out, however, by the adorable, cookie-selling orphans whom Gru finds on his doorstep. The accompanying relationship between Gru and these girls gives the movie its much needed heart and provides an excuse for a particularly eye-popping 3D sequence at an amusement park (I imagine. I saw the film in only two dimensions.).
Despicable Me is anything but despicable. Following How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 this summer movie season (both excellent films in their own rights), Despicable Me carries a charm all its own. It is engaging and fun in just about every possible way. The film is simply a pleasure to watch.
The colors especially are brilliant. When I close my eyes, I can still see the moonlight silhouetting Gru as he addresses his minions. I still marvel at the multicolored lights at the girls’ dance recital. It is the most dazzling movie I have seen since Avatar.
Looking back over the past decade, I think one can identify a marked increase in quality of animated films, and I think this can be accredited to the consistent excellence of Pixar. Just as Gru and Vector are forced to up their villainous games with each theft, so the respective animation studios have been forced to continually up their games to stay competitive with each other. Despicable Me is from newcomer Illumination Entertainment, and they have produced a noble first entry into the animated feature world. Here’s hoping they have more to offer in the future.
A final thought. I find it particularly interesting that Despicable Me‘s “hero” is a villain and even its “villain’s” villainy is called into question. The film (I would argue) inadvertently calls into question absolute morality. Unlike other similar “the hero is the villain” and “the hero is villainous” films, like Shrek and The Dark Knight, Gru is never shown to be “good.” He is a super villain to the end.
Perhaps the unspoken truth of the film is that no one is truly good, and we’re all a little villainous.
Probably not. I’m sure I’m thinking much deeper than the film intends, and there’s no reason to go into the theater with muddled thoughts of moral ambiguity jostling around in your head distracting you from the fun on the screen. Despicable Me is a wonderful, amusing, beautiful film. I heartily recommend it.
P.S. The minions are hilarious.