Our Thursday review for this week comes from Amber Monroe, who maintains her own reviews site at Movie Jottings.
Make sure to check out Despicable Me while it’s still in theaters.
The animation world seems to gradually be getting a clue about good character development, especially with the fairly recent releases of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, How to Train Your Dragon and the Nickelodeon children’s series, The Last Airbender. The crew at Illumination Entertainment has wisely followed this precedent.
Despicable Me, Illumination’s debut film, was a box office hit. It came in number one opening week and, over all, claimed third place in box office revenue among animated films, coming in behind Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After. Granted, this movie is no Inception. It’s not even quite comparable to the instant-classic Toy Story trilogy. But, in its own humble right, I’d say it has gotten Illumination off on the right foot.
Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), the antagonist-turned-protagonist of this story, is a cold-hearted villain in hot pursuit of the perfect crime that will finally set him apart from all other miscreants, and—as is his more desperate desire—win the approval of his equally cold-hearted mother (voiced by Julie Andrews…no joke). His endeavors are superseded by an unknown rival who has managed to pilfer the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gru, determined to come up with something to top such an extraordinary thievery, lands on the moon—that is, to steal it.
Even the greatest of villains is not without his sidekicks. Gru has an entire army of them down in his vast basement workshop. Dr. Nefario, an elderly, hearing impaired, mad-scientist type, works alongside a crew of tiny twinkie-like minions—the most adorable characters ever to hit the animation scene—in order to aid Gru in his nefarious schemes.
Though Gru is certainly not wanting for assistance, there’s still one thing standing in his way: funding. After all, even super-villains are not immune to financial setbacks and deterrents. To make matters worse, the shrink ray needed for Gru’s lunar feat is being hoarded within the impenetrable fortress of an up-and-coming super-villain named Vector. It seems that nothing is powerful enough to infiltrate the iron walls of his domain, until a trio of orphan girls with a wagon full of cookies come knocking at his door. Gru knows that these girls are his only key to obtaining that shrink-ray, so he adopts them as accomplices in his evil scheme, unbeknownst to the three sweeties. Gru, however, was in for a surprise of his own, for little did he know that these three little girls, who alone are able to enter into the heart of Vector’s lair, also hold the power to break through the hardness of his own despicable heart. Try as he might—and he does certainly try—to keep them at arm’s length, his endeavors prove delightfully unsuccessful.
It doesn’t get much more precious than that. The story conveys positive messages about family life and maintains that even the hardest of hearts can be softened by the trusting love of a little girl. The plot-line is simple and even the twists are there for “shock” value and are fairly predictable, but what do you expect out of a children’s movie?
I give this one 5 out of 5 stars—it’s refreshingly clean and enchantingly heartwarming. I recommend seeing it in 3D, if only for the sake of the roller-coaster scene which is likely to tickle your tummy. Even without the extra splurge of 3D effects, the classic slap-stick humor paired with Carell’s absurd accent is enough to keep you giggling throughout the entire movie, and I guarantee you’ll want to go home with one of those little minions in your pocket.
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