MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and mild action
Release Date: July 9, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour and 28 minutes
Plot Synopsis: Gru is one of the most despicable villains ever but he seems to be losing his edge, as a new villain named Vector has recently carried off a massive heist stealing the Pyramid at Giza. Gru proposes to Mr. Perkins, his contact at the Bank of Evil, that they loan him enough money to implement his plan to steal the moon. But Vector already seems to have that plan well under way; he's stolen the shrink ray Gru stole for his scheme. Enlisting the help of three adorable orphans -- Margo, Edith, and Agnes -- Gru, his assistant Dr. Nefario, and his army of little yellow minions sneak into Vector's fortress to steal back the shrink ray gun. However, Dr. Nefario becomes worried that Gru is getting too soft to be a villain now that he's becoming the doting dad to Margo, Edit, and Agnes.
Violence/Gore: Gru demonstrates his villainy by popping a child's balloon animal, cutting in line at the coffee shop with the aid of his freeze ray gun, and threatening his neighbor's dog that poops on his lawn. When Gru leaves the Bank of Evil he freezes Vector's head in an ice block. Gru and Vector each have threatening pets; Gru keeps a dog named Kyle that is all teeth and Vector has a shark swimming his living room. Vector aims all kinds of elaborate weaponry at Gru when he tries to sneak into his fortress. At the amusement park, Gru uses his laser gun to win the fluffy unicorn toy for Edith and ends up blowing up the whole stand. When Gru's rocket blasts off for the moon, Vector tries to hitch a ride but falls off smacking into an electricity tower. Vector kidnaps the girls and takes them on his ship. Gru comes to their rescue and tells the girls to jump into his ship anchored below. Margo almost falls out of the ship but Gru catches her.
Profanity: No cursing but some bathroom humor like when Dr. Nefario creates a "fart gun" instead of the requested "dart gun" and tests it on a minion or when Vector yells at his tiny toilet that he miniaturized with his shrink ray gun.
Which Kids Will Like It? Elementary age boys and girls will giggle loudly at Gru's silly yellow minions with their slapstick antics and funny voices.
Will Parents Like It? While the film does features some A-list comedians in the cast list, the simplistic story and clichéd emotional ending probably won't charm most adults.
Kaboose Review: In stories of good versus evil, most of us would root for the hero, but sometimes it's the villain who is actually the most interesting. Cartoon baddies like Boris & Natasha from The Bullwinkle and Rocky Show or Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget were so fascinating you secretly hoped they would triumph in their nefarious plots. In Despicable Me, the villain, Gru, is center stage -- complete with an inventor sidekick and an army of loyal minions. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Gru goes soft and heroic as he adopts three orphan girls and decides it's better to protect the world than try to steal parts of it for personal gain and bragging rights.
With a subversive (yet family-friendly) plot line and a cast pulled straight out of a blockbuster comedy casting call, Despicable Me is ripe with the promise of being a smart, self-referential comedy that is sophisticated enough for adults, but still fun for kids -- but disappointingly the film never fully delivers on both.
When we first meet our evil hero Gru he's gleefully popping kid's balloon animals, freeze raying a line of coffee patrons so he can skip to the front, and threatening his neighbor's annoying dog. He also has a whole host of little yellow minions that follow his every command, the perfect inevitable foils to any maniacal villain. But as the main source of the movie's slapstick humor, the minions become cloyingly cutesy sidekicks better suited for being movie tie-in toys than helping Gru take over the world.
Even Gru's nemesis, Vector hardly seems menacing with his orange warm-up suit costume, silly voice, and a ridiculous squid-shooting gun. When the movie begins and the two are feuding over the stolen shrink ray gun, it seems like we might get awitty reimagining of Mad magazine's "Spy vs Spy." But instead, Despicable Me is like every other kids' film -- filled with a change of heart, a lesson learned, and a pat happy ending. The premise of the film could've been a lot of fun but the stakes are so low it fizzles out like a balloon that's squeakily losing its air.
Directed by: Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin
Cast: Steve Carell (voice of Gru), Jason Segal (voice of Vector), Russell Brand (voice of Dr. Nefario), Miranda Cosgrove (voice of Margo), Elsie Fisher (voice of Agnes), Dana Gaier (voice of Edith), Kristin Wiig (voice of Miss Hattie), Will Arnet (voice of Mr. Perkins), Julie Andrews (voice of Gru's Mom), Pierre Coffin (voice of various Minions)
Movie poster courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.