Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Despicable Me (2010)

Merry Maniacal Melodies

- The list of heroes on film is not a short one, especially in this day and age with the many superhero blockbuster franchises that populate the summer film season. While many films take the time to explore the nature and adventures of the super*hero*, few have looked exclusively at what gives every superhero his or her purpose: the super villain. Well, the 2010 animated film Despicable Me takes a look at the life of the super villain for a change.

Super villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) was once at the top of the evil pecking order only to be recently shown up by the latest villainous up-and-comer. With a plan to steal a device necessary to steal the moon, Gru will once again be the best villain in the world! But the love of three little orphan girls Margo, Edith and Agnes may change all of that – and Gru himself – for the better.

In this Golden Age of animated films dominated by brilliant big studio blockbusters and clever independent projects, Despicable Me fills a unique spot in the animated genre’s modern standing. Epic films from Pixar (Up (2009)) or DreamWorks (How to Train Your Dragon (2010)) beautifully seize our imagination while dark independent films like 9 (2009) force us to reevaluate the possibilities of the entire animated genre. However, Despicable Me sets on a fresh path for a feature length animated film by reimagining the classic cartoon for a 21st Century audience.

Despicable Me features some of the most famous (though not necessarily best) comedic actors of our time (Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Russell Brand, Will Arnett and Kristen Wiig) but it is hardly a completely modern movie. In my opinion, this is its greatest strength. In striving to be classic inside a genre that often goes for ultra-timely elements for quick box office bucks or a specific niche audience, Despicable Me manages to be one of the most entertaining and warm animated films of the past few years.

Although certainly up to modern standards as far as the quality of its animation goes, Despicable Me chooses a classic direction and timeless themes. Rather than follow in the footsteps of many of its contemporaries that offer a very timely style of humor which tumbles out of style by the next year, the witty humor and outrageous slapstick (where a character will not only survive a mushroom cloud explosion or shark attack but walk away with only a sooty face) of Despicable Me is more akin to classic cartoons like “Merry Melodies” and “Tom and Jerry.” The film’s many memorable minion characters especially embody this aspect of the film.

Also following this timeless direction is the film’s central themes of familial love. Sure, Gru begins as a mean, albeit instantly likeable, super villain but his father-like relationship with the three orphan girls touches him to the core. This relationship between the main characters gives the film a big heart and ends up making Despicable Me more than just a fun cartoon.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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