While Pixar is the undisputed rulers of the animation world that does not mean that films created by other animation studios are not up to snuff. In fact in the last couple years the crews battling it out to be the crown princes of animation have put out some really good films. Films like “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”, “Horton Hears a Who!” and “How to Train Your Dragon” have all raised the standards for films not created by Pixar. “Despicable Me” is another one of these films. And while “Despicable Me” may not be the best animated film, nor the most touching or funniest movie to be done in computer animation this year but it is a solidly entertaining film with heart.
“Despicable Me” introduces us to Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), an aging super villain who wants to cement his legacy by pulling of the crime of the century by stealing the moon. To do so Gru must ask for a loan from the Bank of Evil though and he is dejected when he is turned down for his loan unless he can produce a shrink ray vital to his plan. A plan is hatched and Gru and his adorable little minions set out to get said shrink ray but while making his get away Gru has it stolen from him by hot shot newcomer Vector (Jason Segal). In an effort to get the shrink ray back and save his criminal empire from bankruptcy Gru hatches a plan involving three orphans who sell some cookies to Vector.
The three girls, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), are a shock to the system of the stoic Gru. He doesn’t know how to be a parent and hijinks ensue. Much of what Gru does over the course of the film is to benefit himself and his plan but the girls are there to show him that joy can come from having your actions benefit someone else. Its not a subtle message in the least but its a touching one that works in this setting.
The film clocks in at a crisply paced 95 minutes and it always feels like it is moving somewhere. The story is somewhat unoriginal in its themes and delivery but throughout the entire movie I had a smile on my face. As gruff an outward appearance as Gru tries to project inside he is really a just a heart of gold looking to be accepted, encouraged and ultimately needed. He just needs a prod to get there and the girls give him the opportunity to fulfill all his life’s goals.
“Despicable Me” puts forth a steady stream of humor aimed at both children and their parents and as a parent myself, I couldn’t help but feel for Gru as the girls put him through some situations that I myself have found myself in, albeit Gru’s adventures are much more dramatic in their delivery. And that is kind of the charm of the film, the everyday situations feel familiar and everyone can relate to Gru or the girls even if the end game is to steal the moon because it has to be done in time to get to put a smile on the face of the kids.
“Despicable Me” does not reach for the heights that Pixar has gone to with their last few films but the movie still reaches for a standard that propels films above what Shrek or Ice Age have delivered to the genre. Its a heartwarming, fun and funny ride that you should probably give a shot to, especially if you have already witnessed the juggernaut that is Toy Story 3.
4 out of 5