Plot: Gru is a world class villain with an impeccable resume of nefarious deeds, not to mention a lab filled with cutting edge tech and a militia of minions at his disposal. But when a rival villain pulls off the incredible feat of stealing the Pyramid of Giza, he finds himself playing second banana on the bad guy list. This pushes Gru to launch his most ambitious scheme yet, as he plots to one up the pyramid thief by stealing the moon itself. But to make this kind of epic plan work, he needs the financial help of the villain’s bank, which is a tough sell, even with his storied past as a villain. When he adopts three young girls as part of his plan to foil his rival’s plans, Gru underestimates the demands of being a father. So as he tries to balance his quest for villain greatness and keeping the girls under control, can he somehow beat his new rival in this race to the moon or has Gru passed his prime as a villain?

Entertainment Value: This is the movie that launched the empire of the Minions, but there’s more to Despicable Me than just the little yellow fellows, especially in this first installment of the series. I like the premise here, a villain who struggles with his fall from the top of his field and his need to feel purpose, which of course he manages to find from unexpected sources. The movie leans on sentiment a lot, but that is to be expected, given the focus on Gru’s adoption of the girls and how his life changes in the wake of that crucial turn of events. I also appreciate how Gru’s villain status is explored, as to what put him on that path and given that this is a family movie, there’s more depth to his character than you might think. His arc is well crafted and allows the good to shine through, but his love of little villainous acts remains intact, so Gru is a fun, memorable character here. The movie’s sense of humor is consistent and lands for the most part, with a lot of sight gags and pratfalls for younger viewers, as well as some references that adults will pick up on. I think Despicable Me is a fun, often smart animated feature that rises above its peers in a rather crowded field.

This was an Illumination Entertainment project and the animation is quite cool, with a lot of attention to detail and humorous character designs. The minions are the heart of this franchise and while the design is simple, even in a crowd of hundreds of the little guys, repetition is minimal. This is remarkable, especially given the limited number of variables involved in the designs, but regardless, the minions would win over viewers and become a pop culture staple. The other characters are often humorous just to look at, with exaggerated physical traits and a wide scope of designs, so even crowds show a lot of visual depth. The world of Despicable Me also shares that visual design approach, so even common locales have fun little twists and there’s usually some visual jokes hidden in the backgrounds. As for the voice cast, Steve Carrell takes an odd accent to bring Gru to life, but it works and his performance is a lot of fun. He anchors the movie well and while the accent is weird, the sense of humor is right in his wheelhouse, so he was a wise choice here. The cast also includes Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Danny McBride, Will Arnett, and Kristen Wiig.

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