It is not often that an animation house other than Pixar makes something that people delight in but in Despicable Me, Illumination Entertainment have proved themselves to be worthy competition with their debut feature. Super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) prides himself in being one of the finest villains the world has ever seen so when a rival, Vector (Jason Segel) steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru sets his sights on a heist of an even bigger prize – the moon.
Such a heist does not come cheap however so having requested a loan from the Bank of Evil Gru is granted the funds provided he can acquire the necessary shrink ray required for the job. Gru and his minions (a large number of adorable little yellow people who speak in nonsensical sounds) steal the weapon from a secret base but Vector swoops in and re-steals it for himself. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to penetrate Vector’s fortress, Gru adopts three orphaned girls and makes them infiltrate the fortress under the guise of selling cookies. Despite the acquisition of the shrink ray the Bank of Evil reject his funding after the girls interrupt his meeting.
Gru does his best to ditch the girls at a theme park but after spending the day with them (they are too small to ride without an adult) he winds up warming to them against his will and when they offer the contents of their piggy banks to help with his funding he finds himself becoming more and more enamoured with them. With his minions also offering their pocket money Gru’s determination to succeed sees him construct a spacecraft ready to steal the moon when it is closest to earth.
Unfortunately for Gru the optimal day falls on the same day as the girls’ ballet recital leaving him in a bind. He sets off to steal the moon with the plan to make it back in the time for the recital…
Despicable Me is a magnificent triumph. Despite the seemingly mundane and predictable plot the characters are all so incredibly likable that the entire thing is a delight from start to finish. The evolution of Gru’s manner as he is won over by the girls he only adopted as part of his villainous plan is superbly handled and the girls themselves, particularly Agnes who is the youngest, are so unbelievably cute that it is easy to see why even the world’s greatest villain could stand no chance at not loving them.
What really makes Despicable Me rise above most other animated fare though are Gru’s minions who, despite having no discernable language, interact with one another in hilarious slapstick fashion as they all pull together to do Gru’s bidding. They idolise him like a father and a pop star and they are perhaps the most memorable thing in the film.
All the ingredients in Despicable Me add up to a winning formula. Being ultra critical, it would be fair to say that unlike the majority of Pixar films it does not necessarily grab you and draw you in immediately. Once the film is finished however it is impossible not to look back fondly and want to watch it again as soon as possible.