“When we got adopted by a bald guy,” the character of young orphan Margo states, “I thought this would be more like Annie.” But this weekend’s new animated 3-D flick, Despicable Me, ain’t no Annie. There’s no singing, just a wee bit of dancing, and though, like Annie, there’s a large cast, in this case, they happen to be bright yellow creatures aptly called minions.
Besides the minions – who elicited oodles of giggles every time they hit the screen – Despicable Me is a film about parenting – just don’t tell the kids that. They’ll the leave the theater thinking it’s about supervillains, squid-shooting guns and incredibly fluffy unicorns. Meanwhile, moms and dads will leave thinking it’s a redemption tale about the nature of parental love and the transformational power of kids on a parents’ mind, spirit and overall character.
So what’s the plot of Despicable Me? My 4-year-old daughter, Annabella, said, “It’s the story of that big guy trying to steal the moon and shrink it and do something with it.” My answer would have been it’s about a big guy who adopts three little girls and finds fatherhood more fulfilling than fulltime villain-hood. This multi-layered tale has that family-friendly power to appeal to young and old, girls and boys, and pretty much anyone with a heart – or a kid themselves.
The vocal cast includes Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove, and the one and only Julie Andrews, but you wouldn’t know it by merely watching the film; their voices were all but unrecognizable.
Steve Carell’s gruffy-voiced Gru has a devious scheme to steal the moon and enlists the help – unknowingly – of three little orphans. But deep down, the emotionally-damaged Gru is just trying to realize his childhood dreams of going to the moon – a dream his mom, voiced by Julie Andrews, all but squashed with her indifference.
Gru’s nemesis is the nerdy Bill Gates look-alike, Vector, voiced by Jason Segel. Besides having a weakness for baked goods, Vector’s back-story involves a need to please his dad and follow in thefamily business of doing evil. To put it simply, both villains – Gru and Vector – have some hardcore mommy and daddy issues.
And although my daughter loved the trio of orphans (and the unicorns and ballet dresses that accompanied them) undoubtedly, the movie’s biggest scene-stealers were the minions, a crew of squeaky creatures who do Gru’s bidding and help him accomplish his dastardly deeds. Annabella declared that “they were funnyland!”
Silly, sentimental and stunningly-animated, the film utilizes some great optic tricks (two words: roller coaster!) But the story is so strong, the 2-D version would be just as powerful. And I bet the one hundred million minions would agree.