Despicable Me: Review
Some spectacular 3D doesn't do enough to fix this animated movie without direction
As I sat down to watch Despicable Me, one thought dominated my brain space for the full 95 minutes of the film: Why am I not enjoying this? There are evil geniuses running around doing wildly over-the-top shenanigans. There’s a legion of yellow oompa loompa style minions speaking in their own made up language and providing comic relief. Some of my favourite comic actors, such as Jason Segel, Will Arnett and Jack McBrayer are providing voices. I should be entertained by this movie. Instead, I was bored. And I think I know why.
Firstly, let’s take a look at what worked
Despicable Me is a 3D animated movie. And that 3D is spectacular. I can’t stand it when a movie comes out in 3D and does nothing with it. The roller coaster scene is worth the price of admission alone. And there’s a scene at the end where the minions try and cross from the screen into the audience. If you’re seeing this in 2D, you’re really missing out.
Any scene where Gru, the evil genius protagonist voiced by Steve Carell interacts with the three orphan girls he adopts is heart warming, in a not-cheesy good way. How the girls effortlessly accept Gru’s bizarre eccentricities and lifestyle and embrace the inherent hijinks is ripe for comic potential. And whenever the movie makers mine that potential, they strike gold.
And now a look at what didn’t work
I think the biggest problem for me enjoying this movie is this: the movie makers can’t make up their mind what this movie is about.
- Is it a movie about an evil genius finding the love and approval he never received as a kid? Yes.
- Is it a movie about an older evil genius trying to stay ahead of the young guns? Yes.
- Is it a movie where weird things happen and that’s okay because in this world weird is normal and cool? Yes.
- Do all these stories work together in this film to produce something harmonious and unified? NO!
At the end of the movie, the creators feel that there needs to be some kind of moral. Because all kids movies must have a moral. Problem is, the moral doesn’t seem to fit either the tone of the movie or the character development seen so far.
Something we can learn from Despicable Me
For me, the best part about Despicable Me is the three girls. The evil genius Gru adopts them as part of his evil scheme (an evil scheme that is zany-evil rather than evil-evil). These girls had no-one. Now they have a dad. admittedly, he’s a pretty strange dad. But he comes to love his girls and they come to love him. No one else wanted these girls. The woman who runs the adoption agency tells them that no one will ever want them. Yet Gru chooses them.
Adoption is one of my favourite words. A kid who is unable to be with their parents (for whatever reason) is chosen by someone who will love them and welcome them into their family. The child goes from being alone to being part of a family. Best of all, they are chosen. It’s not some kind of accident, but a deliberate decision to welcome this kid into the family.
As a Christian, I have been adopted. The king of the universe has chosen me to be part of his family. Before I was nothing, completely unworthy of his attention. But now, I’m able to call him Father and receive all the benefits of being his son. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”” (Romans 8:15) The adoption these girls experience in the movie is good. The adoption we experience in Christ is far greater.
The final word
I want to like Despicable Me. I really do. I think the biggest problem is that the movie tries to have a plot. The set up and style seem to work best without a story and seems to fail whenever they try to have one. Perhaps this may have been more enjoyable if it had been 90 minutes of random funny stuff.