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Despicable Me

A 2010 American computer-animated 3-D feature film.

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Despicable Who?

  • Sep 22, 2010
I'm definitely over this ridiculous fad for 3D. I'm also over the Pixar-induced infatuation Hollywood seems to have with animated 'kidult" movies: predictably enough, even as the digital wizardry has continually popped eyes, story lines have proved ever more derivative, and great films, digital, 3D, or otherwise remain as elusive as ever. Most the recent digital cartoons including (universally feted but, in my contrarian opinion, overrated) Toy story 3 have been duds. So I had no great expectations of Despicable Me, particularly as its tag line ("super bad. Super dad") promised a dreary couple of hours.

The first thing you notice about the film - or perhaps the last, seeing as it is only with the rolling of the credits that you realise what has caused this odd dissonance - is how French it is. Other than the voice actors, virtually every name on the credit roll is French.

And that gives it, well, a je ne sais quoi (he says with a "pfft" and a Gallic shrug). Gru, the master villain, wears the sort of stylish scarf and a snappy zip-up turtle-neck that would simply never occur to a Californian. His house is a decaying Gothic mansion with a dead lawn, but live suburban Californian neighbours (no South Pacific atolls for this major criminal, but his inside space is still cavernous to say the least). Gru drives an ungainly rocket-powered car made of riveted steel that might be of Jules Verne's devising. And Gru - sardonic, ironic, eastern European Gru - is the hero of the film, not the villain: in tune with the modern world's acknowledgement that there is no good and bad, only 1001 different flavours of turpitude, Gru's quest is nothing more honourable than reclaiming the world's number 1 bad guy spot off some precocious young kid in a tracksuit.

So a word about allegories. I have seen a couple bandied about in cyber space, that this is a thinly disguised biopic about Microsoft and Apple - for said track suited adolescent "Vector", superimpose Bill Gates. And Vector certainly seems to have outdone the older, more complacent Gru, in every conceivable way (whilst being obsessed with a Squid Gun!). Yet, with Microsoft these days more or less an also-ran in the tech wars, it's difficult to see why this would be an interesting subject to explore. And it might jut as well be about Google versus Microsoft, or even Universal versus Pixar. But you do have a hunch that the Frenchmen are hinting at something darker than the nostalgic slapstick of, say, The Incredibles. There is something about this film's bearing that leads you (well, it led me, at any rate) to look for buried messages.

As is the way of these post-modern comedies, the cultural references are legion, and the story itself is an imaginative (or perhaps random) welding together of Little Orphan Annie, Moonraker, the Incredibles and, in its way, Wall Street: Gru's problems only start when he is turned down by his bankers for a loan to finance his latest dastardly enterprise. His bank: The Bank of Evil, of course. (Subtitled: "Formerly Lehman Brothers").

What looked like a cheap shot had me thinking allegorically again (sorry: it's a weakness). I wonder whether it isn't technology, but capitalism itself, that is the Frenchmen's target. Something chimes about the parallels between the corporate and banking excesses of recent years which, as we remorsefully rehearse, sorely lacked social utility outside the enrichment of their perpetrators - and a hubristic and egotistical race to do something as pointless (and self-harming, as a poor werewolf discovers, mid-howl) as stealing the moon. The only motivation offered was "profit", with no explanation given for how any might accrue (which also rings rather true!)

Certainly, the speech Gru gives to all his "minions" (semi-sentient little helpers who look like Advil capsules in goggles and denim overalls: he tells them to prepare their CVs) resembles Dick Fuld's supposed speech to his defeated troops after the battle of wall street in 2008, and the minions (half-witted automatons) do rather resemble aspiring investment bankers. The Lehman reference, perhaps, was not coincidental.

So much for hubris: Gru's redemption is at the hands of three orphans whom he adopts for nefarious purposes, and in whose hands he makes his moral recovery. This is predictable, yes, and formulaic, yes, but nevertheless is handled deftly, with genuine inventiveness and the same sort of new parent's knowingness which infuses Pixar's output: Gru's irritation at the feebleness of the bedtime story he is required to read was visceral and very, very familiar to the audience, judging by their uproarious response. Brilliant.

The 3D is used inventively (why no-one has ever thought to stage a rollercoaster ride in a 3D movie before is beyond me, but it works a treat) without ever being gratuitous. And I liked the incidental music too: other than the opening strains of Lynrd Skynrd (accompanying a stereotypically annoying family of American tourists: again, a deft little Gallic tweak) it is suave and, well, Continental.

Others have carped that Despicable Me is saccharine: maybe it caught me on a good day but I didn't think so at all: I enjoyed every minute, and so did my kids (9 through 4), so from me it comes well recommended for all ages.

Olly Buxton

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More Despicable Me reviews
review by . July 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ Stars: Ssoooo...Despicably CUTE and Adorable!
Warning: This Review is about an animated film that is so full of “CUTESY” Elements that it may be necessary to have a ‘hurl bucket’ handy. This review is also filled with ‘CUTE’ subliminal messages.      With 3D graphic technology in full swing and the box-office successes of animated films such as “How To Train Your Dragon”, “Shrek Forever After” and “Toy Story 3” has inspired a new wave of animated films …
review by . June 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****     "Despicable Me" is an animated feature in which weapons pop out within several seconds, little orphan girls are made somewhat cute, and evil minions are nothing short of resembling dimwitted corn-pops.     So right there, some good ideas were put into the product. The final result is energetic, family-friendly fun that has charm; but lacks the extra kick that could have earned it a total recommendation. With that being said, I would never …
review by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Despicable You? Maybe. Unimpressed Me? Definitely.
DESPICABLE ME   Written by Ken Daurio   Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud   Voices by Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Kristen Wiig      Gru: Good night, sleep tight.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite … because there are literally thousands of them … and there’s probably something in your closet too.      You’ve gotta love an imagined world where there are evil super villains …
review by . January 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Our alter-egos
It’s good entertainment this week, if animation could be wicked, that is!      Gru reminds me of Michael J. Fox in Family Ties; arrogant but lovable. Then there are also moments of Batman Begins, Matrix Revolutions, Star Wars, James Bond 007, Honey, I shrunk the kids, Mrs. Doubtfire & Saturday Night Fever (the altered dimension of them all, that is)!         There’s a lot of humor in this one, perfect for a Sunday afternoon!  …
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2011
posted in The Family Room
I broke my word.   : (   I swore an oath that I would not watch any more computer animated movies, but I couldn't help it... this one was just sooooo CUTE!      The film tells the story of Gru, a neglected boy who failed to win the approval of his mother as a child and grew up to be the world's greatest villain, and his attempt to pull of the greatest theft in villain history: the Moon. However, things begin to go awry when a younger, sassier, and …
review by . November 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 stars: I've got problems how 'bout you? I want to be the number one villians do you?
In almost all films with superheroes or heroes,   the most interesting character is not the hero but the evil, demented mad man he is trying to stop. I can name more than ten villains off the top of my head that are far more fascinating than the hero who is trying to stop him The Joker is far more fascinating than Batman; Brainiac is more fascinating than Superman is. The Green Goblin is more fascinating than Spider-Man the list goes on and on and on and on In the …
review by . September 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   I’m not usually that picky with it comes to animation. Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs all got a 5 out of 5 from me. While How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3 were amazing feats of film-making in their own respects, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs struck a different cord in me. The movie had the same humor style of a lot of the cartoons I grew up with like the greater days of Spongebob, having this goofy style of humor that’s …
Quick Tip by . November 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
With action thrillers with hardcore violence, strong sexuality and pervasive language come out on a regular basis there is one bright hope that glimmers in the distance, animated films, animated films have been the corner stone of filmmaking since the late 30's to the early 90's. The greatest production company on the planet to ever produce and make such fine has always been the Disney Corporation and its property Pixar when they made there splash in 1995 with the timeless classic "Toy …
review by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
While not quite as wondrous or challenging as a Disney/Pixar film, "Despicable Me" is still a lot of fun, able to make audiences laugh without having to sacrifice story or character development. It's also one of the few animated films to not entertain the idea of heroes - it merely distinguishes between evil villains and not-so-evil villains, the latter apparently capable of good deeds despite their propensity for hatching diabolical schemes. Such a person is Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), who looks …
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I'm posting this on the fly, but let me just say: if you're planning a trip to the cinema this weekend, you may want to check this movie out. I'm gonna attempt a full review later (hopefully). But really, Steve Carell as Gru had me in stiches from start to finish. Plus, the little yellow minions are the best thing in almost any movie.
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Olly Buxton ()
Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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Despicable Me is a 2010 American computer-animated 3-D feature film from Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment that was released on July 9, 2010 in the USA. The film stars Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, and Miranda Cosgrove.

  • In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences with flowering rose bushes, sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Surrounded by a small army of minions, we discover Gru, planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon (Yes, the moon!). Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad. The world's greatest villain has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith and Agnes.
  • Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand

  • Poster Art for "Despicable Me."
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    Genre: Animation
    Release Date: July 09, 2010
    MPAA Rating: G
    Runtime: 95 minutes
    Studio: Universal Pictures
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