Review: ‘Despicable Me’
As any parent of school-aged children will tell you, there aren’t as many kid-friendly releases as there used to be. When I first saw a trailer for Despicable Me (releasing July 9th from Universal), I wasn’t sure if it was actually aimed toward the grade school set. When my favorite go-to site for kid-friendly events in New York City announced that they had arranged a free advance screening for the film, I did a little research, determined my kids would like the story, and signed up. I’m very glad that I did.
[[[Despicable Me]]] is about a supervillain named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who is distraught to discover that a young up-and-coming villain named Vector (Jason Segel) is stealing his place in the spotlight. When Gru is unsuccessful in infiltrating Vector’s lair, he goes to a local orphanage and adopts three little girls who have been going around the neighborhood selling cookies for a fundraiser. This is where he film’s tagline “Super bad. Super Dad.” comes from. Now, those of you who have seen a few touching movies about old curmudgeons whose hearts are warmed by having children in their life can probably guess the basic plot, but keep in mind that the target audience will not. Additionally, there is much more going on than just the basic plotline.
Not only does Gru have three new adopted daughter bringing chaos and mayhem to his world, he also has hundreds of little yellow bubble-like minions. You have probably seen these minions in the many trailers and billboards advertising the film. These funny little creatures with their unintelligible chatter and tendency to behave like children themselves, bring a lot of amusing moments to the film. My kids were laughing happily at their antics, but several other children in the audience were just pealing with laughter to the point of hiccups. True, there is a bit of mild violence (shoving, hitting) between the minions, and many parents these days don’t want their little ones to witness this kind of behavior, but it is nowhere near as brutal as the [[[Tom and Jerry]]] or Coyote and Roadrunner we watched as kids. It’s sort of a very watered-down Three Stooges level of immature scuffling, and it’s pretty amusing even for people over ten.
As for entertainment for the grown-ups in the audience, there are several little jokes that will be very funny to the adults that the children just won’t register. Nothing naughty, mind, but certainly very funny. There are many scenes where Gru is experiencing something we have all experienced (long lines, annoying neighbors, etc.) and does what we all wish we could do in that situation. So, while the film is geared toward kids, the creators absolutely remembered to include entertainment for everyone.
Despicable Me can be viewed in either 3-D or standard 2-D. For those who don’t like a lot of in-your-face effects with 3-D, this really isn’t as bad as you might imagine. It adds an extra element of visual depth, and there are a few moments where things pop out, but they don’t shove it down your throat the way a lot of films do. I am certain the film would be just as enjoyable viewed without the 3-D if you would prefer to forgo the latest moviegoing craze. Speaking of technology, there is also a Despicable Me app, created by Best Buy, which can supposedly translate what the minions are saying during the closing credits. I did not personally test this app, since I was at a sneak preview and electronic devices were forbidden. I don’t know whether it can translate the minions during the film itself, but I hope that anyone planning to try that waits for DVD/Blu-Ray, because it is extremely annoying when people bring out their glowing phone screens during a movie.
But, regardless of whether you plan to watch Despicable Me with all the bells and whistles or just as a straight-up 2-D film, it is a movie that manages to make the audience smile, laugh, knowingly nod, and (if you’re sentimental like me) sniffle. My children enjoyed the movie even more than I did, and throughout the entire screening, with an audience full of kids of all ages, there was no crying or whining. Everyone was focused on the antics of Gru, his minions, and his three adorable little girls.