Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Despicable Me

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for rude humor and mild action
Profanity:Some crude schoolyard language
Nudity/Sex:Some potty humor
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Cartoon violence including explosions, shark, crashes, peril, but no one hurt
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:July 9, 2010
DVD Release Date:December 14, 2010

We usually just take it for granted that the villain wants to rule the world without worrying too much about why. But one of the many charms of this utterly delightful film is that we get a glimpse that is both funny and satisfying of what it is that makes not one but two super-villains so intent on being despicable.

We even get a flashback of our anti-hero, Gru (voice of Steve Carell with a Boris Badenov accent) as a child, confiding his dreams of being an astronaut to his mother (voice of Julie Andrews as Natasha!). She crushes his hopes with a cruel insult. So decades later, he is still trying to earn her respect, now as a super-thief. No matter how audacious his capers, however, she is still unimpressed. He has stolen the Jumbotron from Times Square and the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty (okay, those last two are the replicas from Vegas). But he still needs to make that one heist that will show her he can earn her respect. He could not be an astronaut and fly to the moon. So, maybe he could steal it.

And then there’s the anti-anti-hero, who has just adopted the villain name Vector. He may have a nifty name and even niftier equipment, his lair guarded by everything from heat-seeking missiles to buzz saws and a shark, and he may have just pulled off the theft of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but it turns out he has some trouble pleasing his parent, too.

So it’s a race between Gru and Vector to see who can steal the moon, which first involves stealing the shrink ray they need to make it small enough to carry home. And, adorably, this requires the involvement of dozens of little yellow “minions” who look like oompa-loompas made out of marshmallow peeps and three little orphan girls who live with a Miss Hannigan-style harridan as they hope someone will give them a real home. Maybe made of gummi bears.

The resilience of the three girls (the oldest voiced by Miranda Cosgrove of “iCarly” and “School of Rock”) is a sublime counterpart to the unhappiness and insecurity of Gru and his arch-rival Vector (voice of Jason Segal), showing us that even the rottenest of circumstances does not have to make you overly vulnerable or mean. When Gru brings them home as a way of getting into Vector’s compound (his security system features missiles and a shark but he can’t resist the girls’ cookies), he is so clueless he puts out candy in a dog bowl and newspapers on the floor. But as we have glimpsed in his interaction with the minions (I loved the matter-of-fact way he knows all the names of the almost-identical horde), he is susceptible to being liked and trusted. And he slowly begins to learn that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to care; he was scared to.

Brilliant production design contrasts Gru’s goth with a touch of steampunk lair in the middle of a street of identical homes with Vector’s sleek, Apple-eseque, creamsicle-colored high-tech headquarters. The expert pacing keeps things fresh, funny, and exciting. And a twist on the usual race-to-the-big-event-to-show-your-new-found-values reminds us all that the great thing about families is you can always have a second chance.

It looks like 2010 will go down in history as the year 3D animation kicked the stuffing out of all the live-action releases. Pixar opened the door and it is a thrill to see studios like Illumination showing what they have to bring to audiences ready to accept animation as art and as heart-warming family entertainment.

And here’s a special glimpse of one of the extras on the new DVD release:



  • pam

    Nell, do you think it’s worth the extra premium to see this in 3-D? We took some young friends to see Toy Story 3 in 3-D last weekend, and while I enjoyed the movie VERY much, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it less in 2-D.
    What do you think about this one?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    The 3D effects in “Toy Story 3″ were more subtle, but in “Despicable Me” they are very effective and very much a part of the fun of the movie, especially during the final credit sequence. So yes, I think it’s worth it!

  • jestrfyl

    Do you think Antonio Prophias (you mean you never solved the Morse Code message near the top of each page?) from MAD magazine will sue for plagiarism. A lot of the plots and counterplots look straight from Spy vs. Spy.
    I am glad to see your score of A-. I was worried the over-hype for this film meant it was weak and feeble. Now I will go see it in the big theater, and not wait for the $1 theater next month.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I subscribed to MAD from my 10th birthday until it was sold, jestrfyl, and our daughter went as the Gray Spy one year for Halloween. I am taking her to the movie today. Let me know what you think!

  • monkie

    Yay! I’m really loving all the 3D lately, so glad this one is worth seeing :)
    (makes up for the ‘Airbender’ disappointment)

  • David Crowley

    I loved this movie. It was so funny and very well done. We saw it in 2D (we didn’t want to be fooled again with “3d” like we were with Last Airbender… hopefully the Last Trainwreck for M. Night.) But after seeing it, we may go back again to see it in 3d.
    Anyway, this movie was beautifully done, and while the aliens in Toy Story (think the claw) were all clones of each other… the minions in this had great personality and charisma. So it was fun to watch their capers and antics.
    The kids in the movie were well acted and voiced, especially the youngest girl. One of my favorite scenes was when the girl got her stuffed animal at the carnival. That was definitely a turning point for Gru as a father figure.
    Very sweet movie and lots of hidden references to other movies. Great for the whole family.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, David! This is one where I do think the 3D is worth it. If you see it again, let me know what you think. I am so happy that you loved the film as much as I did. Agreed on all points!

  • Rama

    Just saw it with the whole family from two years to 35 years old, we LOVED IT! Enough of everything for everyone. Nothing offensive, and all “violence” was lighthearted enough to not scare or upset my sweet 2 year old son! REMARKABLE MOVIE!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I am so delighted to hear that, Rama! Thanks very much. “Despicable Me” is one of the most refreshing surprises of the summer.

  • MonsterMom

    Just saw this movie and really enjoyed it…EXCEPT what is it with the negative messages about adoption!?!?!?! We brought along my 5yo niece (who happens to have joined our family through adoption) and-YIKES!-I cringed at the “YOU’LL never get adopted!” lines and a plot line that has the children being sent back to the horrible orphanage (complete with the threat of time out in a “Shame Box”)! The rest of the movie was fine, even fun…but are the writers even thinking that SOME of the moviegoers may be adopted…or be the parents of an adopted child…or put a child up for adoption…or known someone who is adopted…well, you see where I’m going with this.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks a lot, MonsterMom. I had some concerns about the portrayal of the orphanage, but decided that the ultimate resolution was so pro-adoption that it worked for me. I felt that the way the girls were portrayed as so resilient and in control (with an explicit reference to the “Annie” orphanage) that it was no more out of bounds than the heightened portrayal of the bad guys. But I am glad you alerted readers to the issue. Much appreciated.

  • Ben

    To offer a different perspective for those who aren’t dealing with adoption directly or indirectly through close friends or extended family…. You really don’t know what is going on in an adoptee’s mind unless you’ve been there.
    To condense a long and complex explanation, the biggest fear that adoptees have are that they will be sent back, or rejected by their adoptive families, because of the issue of “Toxic Shame.” “Toxic Shame” is a term therapists use to describe when children who’ve been adopted believe they were given up by their birth parents because they were inherently “Bad”. They believe they were a “Bad Baby” or a “Bad Kid” if they were surrendered at an older age, and this issue is extremely difficult to combat. The best way to help adoptees to release “toxic shame” is through building positive self esteem and their loved ones helping to reinforce that a “Forever Family” is exactly that, a family forever and the child will never be abandoned again.
    Now should America boycott and never buy a ticket to a Pixar movie? No, that isn’t the point.
    The point is that adoptive families don’t need this kind of reinforcement of the biggest fear in an adoptees mind. We just don’t need it.
    Now we’re all bracing for what the kids will be saying at school, because adoption isn’t their reality, so they have no frame of reference and don’t understand how what they joke about can be deeply hurtful.
    Awareness of these kinds of sensitive areas for children who have friends who were adopted at some point in thier lives, could be very helpful for those families dealing with Bonding, Excessive Fear or Vigilence, and/or Attachment difficulties, day in and day out.
    So if you see the movie, perhaps a debriefing in the car on the way home would be appropriate for your children. I guess one could look at it as yet another learning opportunity for all of us.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Ben, I am deeply grateful for this thoughtful, sensitive, and generous comment, which will be of enormous help to those who do have adopted family members and those who are not familiar with the dynamics of those relationships. I especially like the way you think of the film as a way to begin an important conversation for all families. Much appreciated. I can also recommend some good movies dealing with adoption like the recent documentary “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” about an American family who adopt two Chinese children. And I hope the family discussions will include the toxic shame of the adult biological children in this movie and the way their parents’ disapproval affected their choices.
    One small correction: This is not a Pixar movie. It is from another studio. Thank you again.

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