Gru is a supervillain. Voiced by The Office star Steve Carell, he makes a living from elegantly stealing priceless and luxurious monuments from all around the world, or so he desperately wishes. You see, Gru hasn’t been too successful in this department as his most prized stolen objects are the Jumbotron from Times Square, an Eiffel Tower replica and a small-scale Statue of Liberty, both of which were clutched from Las Vegas.
Gru dreams of one day stealing an object that’s truly worth something, something that he’ll really be remembered for. He craves to be recognized for the crime of the century, to be feared and to go up in the ranks of supervillainy. And this is what makes Gru such an interesting character for an animated family film. He’s not a hero, he’s a villain, a mean one, and yet he’s so upbeat about everything that you can’t help but fall in love with him.
He’s the protagonist (or antagonist?) of Despicable Me, Universal’s parody of the well-known clichéd Bondesque enemies. It’s a film that pokes fun at the traits and characteristics of the typical mischief makers we see in spy movies and comic book flicks, and it’s one that takes full advantage of its subject material.
Our main character goes about his daily life, using freeze guns on queues of people so that he doesn’t have to stand in line for coffee, driving about in some sort of advanced rocket car thing, laughing as he pops the balloons of innocent little kids and having fun with his tiny yellow creature henchmen. He’s not very subtle.
In order to outdo his equally evil competition, he has hatched a plan to go to the moon and shrink it so that it can fit in his pocket and then just, well, take it. There’s a problem though, as his rival Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) has stolen his shrinking gun and has it locked it up in a super secure vault. After several ill-fated attempts to break into Vector’s house, Gru decides to adopt three young girls, named Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).
He plans to use them in a not-so-elaborate scheme to intrude on Vector’s seemingly impenetrable mansion, but as time goes by, Gru starts feeling affection for the three cute little toddlers. Will they make him change his nefarious ways? Will they make him rethink his moon-stealing plot? Will young viewers be influenced by his evilness? Maybe.
As you can probably tell, this movie is quite predictable, but that certainly does not stop it from being fun. Within the first ten minutes I was raising an eyebrow at the film’s creativity and inventive nature. It’s a step-up from Universal’s other animated films such as The Land Before Time sequels, Curious George and The Tale of Despereaux.
No, this is not quite up to par with any of the Pixar films, nor Dreamworks‘ recent How to Train Your Dragon, but what it is, is a fabulously entertaining and beautifully animated kids film. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the animation and extravagantly exaggerated designs of the characters. The trio of girls are ridiculously cute with large pupils in their eyes and adorable little noses. Gru’s fairly odd-looking, but not necessarily unattractive and it fits his character well. My favourite design though has to go to Gru’s disgruntled mother, with her bulging, pointed nose and chin.
The film is a witty one and the script is pretty damn impressive, filled aplenty with humorous witticisms to be laughed out loud at. The comic timing of some gags, both visual and verbal, is mighty fine, perfectly tickling the ribs of kids and adults alike. Many jokes come from Gru’s highly unsociable demeanour and the formidable way in which he treats those around him, which is notably mean. But what takes the chocolate cake for almost all of the funniest moments has got to be Gru’s small, sunny coloured helpers. They’re largely moronic and talk purely in gibberish, which just makes them all the more hilarious with the style in which they interact with each other. The youngsters will love ‘em.
The voice work is spectacular for almost every member of the cast. Carell sports an Eastern European accent, one which very much reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s one of the things I loved about his character, Carell has clearly put a lot of work into getting the voice right. Segel is virtually unrecognizable as Vector, I actually didn’t realize it was him until I looked at the cast list, but he does a great job as the smug antagonist.
Then there’s Russell Brand who plays Gru’s elderly assistant Dr. Nefario. The stand-up comic is admirable enough, although he is just putting on a gruff voice. The supporting cast, which includes Julie Andrews and Will Arnett, is also great, each of their characters are both strong and memorable.
If there’s anything I have against Despicable Me, it’s that the plot is occasionally pushed aside for more laughs, and the film itself feels a tad short. Nothing too bad though, as it is a brilliantly fun and engaging cartoon which should supply laughs for all of the family. Just hope that the kids don’t get any ideas from Gru’s constant wrongdoing.
Eight outta ten