DESPICABLE ME. Animation film voiced by Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Jason Segel,
Steve Carell and Julie Andrews. Directed by Pierre Coffin. Rated PG (Mild animated violence). 95 minutes .
Not too many films around with 'despicable' in the title. And the film is so entertaining that critics will not be tempted to use 'despicable' to describe it. It is very likeable, even the villain (hero), Gru. Children will enjoy it, as will adults, but it is for older youngster rather than the littlies.
While some of the elements may be familiar enough, two rival villains and their competitiveness, three little orphans with wide-eyed longing to be adopted, the strands come together in ways that are rather unpredictable.
The characters and the drawings are quite different from the American style and much of the animation was done in Paris by a French team. This is most welcome. The characters are all exaggerated, especially the adult faces. We know many of the cast who voice the characters – but the drawings don't look like the stars at all. Steve Carrell (relishing his accent, from Eastern Europe?) is not tall and gangly like Gru (the initials come from an old Soviet intelligence agency). Jason Segal is quite big but here voices the small, nerdy, paunchy villain, Vector. And, just as well Julie Andrews doesn't look like Gru's mum, a witch-nosed, piled-hair harridan of a mother (with Julie voicing it as gruff and accented as well), And Doctor Nefario does not look like Russell Brand. The voices are most enjoyable.
And the plot? The film opens with a bold kid climbing up the great pyramid in Cairo only to discover that it is a blow-up and the real one has been stolen – as have other emblematic buildings. Then we are introduced to the misanthropic Gru who aspires to be the world's greatest villain and is feeling rather peeved that someone else has stolen the pyramid. But he has a bright idea – and the screenwriters must have thought, why not go for the moon, and they do. Gru will steal the moon by shrinking it and bring it back to earth for ransom in his Dr Nefario-built rocket. You see, it is unpredictable!
Gru, however, was not counting on the determination of the three orphans who tried to sell him cookies. They want to escape from the institution's cruel Miss Hattie (Kristin Wiig). They are American-cute and start to melt Gru's heart, even with a visit to an entertainment part and a roller coaster ride (in 3D) that is too much for Gru.
There is a lot of slapstick from the Pixar-studio like little minions that Gru relies on for everything, even the final cliffhanger (well, cable hanger between two rocket ships!).
Amusing for all – and adults may like the sub-heading over the door of The Bank of Evil: 'Formerly Lehmann Brothers'.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released: September 9 2010