It’s an unexpected delight

2010-10-04 00:00

DESPICABLE Me is the first outing for Illumination, Universal’s new animation studio, and a great debut it is. The story involves Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell), the “Despicable Me” of the title, and his nefarious plan to shrink the Moon and then steal it.

Along the way he adopts three unknowing orphans to help him with his plan. Fatherly concerns begin to override his ambitions and we slowly discover that his uncaring mother (voiced by Julie Andrews) had a lot to do with him becoming so despicable.

The film has many strengths, particularly in its characterisations that challenge the stereotype. Gru is far from your typical anti-hero. Firstly, he’s bald with a massive schnozzle and has a build like an egg on matchsticks.

Voiced and styled in a Bela Lugosi way, he’s neither flamboyantly evil like Cruella de Ville, nor particularly charming. He’s really a man seeking validation in the wrong places and has surrounded himself with trappings imaginatively OTT and apparently ominous.

His “mad scientist” sidekick seems to look out for him in a fatherly way and his horde of cute minions are at first completely unexpected and then delightful. As Austin Powers would say, he’s “the margarine of evil”, making his character arc through the film that much more intriguing and all the more human.

The animation is as impressive and as imaginative as Up (2009), moving away from photo-realism towards a fusion of styles that embody themes rather than the literal. The film is delightful in its references to other films like Mission Impossible, Austin Powers and many others, continually reinventing and delivering the unexpected.

The writing is also sharp and if you’re not laughing out loud, you’ll certainly be smiling. There’s a jibe at Lehmann Brothers and thematically the film challenges our notions surrounding the value we place in material possessions and ownership. On a lighter side though, the film is not too scary for children and continually defies expectations. A great movie for both you and the kids.

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