No movie this year had funnier previews than “Despicable Me”. I’ll admit I have a penchant for animated movies, but from the moment the first preview hit the screen, “Despicable Me” topped the list of movies I really wanted to see. As the weeks wore on, every new preview only looked more appealing.
While the film is undoubtedly one of the most original animated films of the year -if not of the decade- and it indubitably one of the most comical and cute films, it is hamstringed by the fact that so many of the great scenes had been in the previews. There is a fine line between using advertising to whet the public’s appetite for a film and dousing the film’s charisma with advertising ploys. Unfortunately, “Despicable Me” tends toward the latter.
That isn’t to say that the film is lighthearted and cute. Following in the contemporary trend of the lovable villain as protagonist, this new venture creates a fragile character named Gru. While Gru is an aspiring world-class villain, underneath his protruding nose, hunched back and endearing Eastern European accent he is still a child who has never achieved the approval of his curmudgeonly mother. Nevertheless, Gru has all the patent marks of villainy: massive vehicles which belch clouds of pollution that would send Greenpeace into orbit, a tall, looming and ominously shadowed house surrounded by a derelict and barren yard, a dog with more teeth than brains, instruments of medieval torture on the walls, furniture made out of endangered species, plenty of nuclear weapons to go around, and an army of devoted minions in his employment.
One of the most humorous aspects about “Despicable Me” is the absolute unreality of the events. It is simply not possible that Gru might be your next door neighbor. No one can inflict that much damage on a town, or launch so many nuclear warheads, and get away scot-free. Even the orphanage from which Gru adopts the girls is rather implausible, making one think of a 19th century, Oliver Twist-esque scenario. And once your mind acknowledges this, it makes it so much easier to sink into the world of the story and laugh repeatedly.
Children and adults alike will love Gru’s minions. One of the cutest parts of the movie is this army of cheese puffs in overalls and goggles who are capable of building rockets, flying planes and running a copy machine. Though they squeak and mumble to each other instead of speaking, they feature a number of other talents such turning into glow sticks, running a sound booth and creating a lifesaving human, minion rather, chain at 30,000 feet in the air. And despite their responsibilities, they are also quite mischievous but sensitive enough to long for a good night kiss. The over-analytic observer might wonder if there is a subliminal message being pushed by the overenthusiastic all-male minions who hug and kiss a little too readily in their excitement.
The other incredibly cute part of the movie are the three girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes, who Gru schemingly adopts and plans on using to break into the stronghold of his arch-nemesis, a nerdy kid named Vector with a penchant for sea life. From Agnes’s love for unicorns, Edith’s ever-present pink hat, and Margo’s determined courageousness, the three girls win the viewers’ hearts just as they win Gru’s.
The ending to the movie, far from being the stereotypic conversion story, adoption story, or family story, is very heartfelt and very touching. In its depth, it tops the superficial aspects which drove people to the theatres in the first place and compensates for the movie’s rougher edges. The contentment that almost every character feels is conveyed to the audience more than makes up for any worries presented by the fact that there isn’t one single intact nuclear family in the movie (though the girls desire to be adopted by a family with a nice mommy and daddy.)
“Despicable Me” is a family friendly movie that will be just as comical to adolescents and adults. No curse words, minor potty language and scatological humor, a lack of innuendos and few scary special effects make this a movie for the whole family.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.