For those of us who have kids, you know that in recent years we have been inundated with animated movies.
This year is no exception.
No longer are they schmaltzy affairs with lions singing Elton John tunes, they are cartoon with an edge. Something that to my mind is LONG overdue.
Comes now Despicable Me, the newest 3D animated offering from Sony Pictures Animation, chronicles the life of Gru, an evil genius voiced by Steve Carell, who while he’s not masterminding various “crimes of the century” he resides hidden in plain sight in the manicured lawn, white-picket wasteland of suburbia. The movie beings with a sweeping shot of a Bedouin man and his camels moving across the high desert nearly getting run over by a family in a minivan who are blowing across the dunes blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”. They are tourist hoping to see the pyramids and while they are taking pictures and reeling in hick delight Junior climbs a scaffold and falls into an inflatable replica.
It’s that kind of opening that signals to the viewer that this movie is NOT going to be a fluffy, cutesy movie just for the kids in the audience.
This is not to say it isn’t obvious that the producers of the movie did not have the lucrative toy market in mind when they made the film. This is evidence by the appearance of the Minions, the goggle wearing, little yellow guys who number in the hundreds and are assistants (and lab rats) for Gru and his scientist Dr. Nefario voiced by Russell Brand. If ever there was a character meant to be stuffed into a kids meal box at a fast food restaurant, it’s a Minion. A source of comic relief in the film, they provide a manic edge to the story that keeps you laughing.
Once Gru gets wind of the theft of the pyramids, he hatches a plot to steal the moon. In order to do that, he has to travel to China to steal a shrink ray. This takes a considerable amount of capital so he goes to a bank for supervillains (the Bank Of Evil, formerly Lehman Brothers…get it?), to take out a loan and meets his rival Vector, who has a thing for weapons that shoot…umm, fish. Okay, nerdy villains are allowed their quirks. Anyway the short tempered Gru is pestered by Vector and Gru freezes his head. Just as Gru’s minions get their hands on the shrink ray, Vector steals it and locks it away in his fortress.
Of course, Gru wants it back and he hatches an elaborate plan that involves three orphans, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove of ICarly), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). In the beginning they attempt to sell Gru cookies and after he rebuffs them he enlists their help after he sees them get into Vectors fortress with ease after he is violently repelled several times. He adopts the girls from the orphanage and restarts his elaborate plot.
The movie is a nice mix of manic “Chuck Jones”-style slapstick comedy mixed with a nice story about how three orphan girls warm the heart of an icy-heated supervillain bent on world domination. Sure, this movie is for kids…and I saw it worth my 10 year old son, who loved it…but as evidenced by Lehman Brothers being renamed the Bank Of Evil there is plenty of inside jokes for the adults in the audience. If you plan to take the kids to this one, they will enjoy it and you won’t be disappointed or bored either.
A word on the versions of this movie. Yes, there is a 3D offering as well as a 2D version. I saw the 2D version, mainly because there was an upcharge at the theatre for…something. Not exactly sure what for. The thing about that is that while there are points in the movie where 3D would definitely heighten the experience you don’t really miss much in 2D. To save a rant on that, I will recommend BOTH versions because this movie is worth your time.