Despicable Me (2010)

Rated: PG for rude humor and mild action.
Length: 95 minutes
Grade: AA-AB=A
Budget: $69 million
Box Office: $648 million (252 U.S., 290 Intl., 106 DVD)

Written by: Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul (College Road Trip, Horton Hears a Who!, and The Santa Clause 2) and Sergio Pablos (First script, an animator for Tarzan, Treasure Planet, Hurcules, and Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Directed by: Pierre Coffin (First major film) and Chris Renaud (First major film, worked on Ice Ages, Horton Hears a Who!, and Robots)
Starring the voice of: Steve Carell
With the voices of: Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher.

Someone has stolen the pyramids, and the former world’s nastiest super-villain, Gru, is pretty peeved that it wasn’t him. So, in an effort to reclaim his name as worst bad-guy, he plans to steal the moon. But first he needs a super-top-secret shrink ray, funding from the bank of villainy (formerly Lehman Brothers), and the help of three little orphan girls whom he adopts as part of his plan.
Entertainment Value: A
First of all, I’m impressed this was made for only $69 million. that’s about half what such movies are budgeting these days. Second, I’m impressed that it was the result of two first-time directors. Third, I’m amazed that having Jason Segel, Russell Brand, and Kristen Wiig in a kids movie wasn’t an utter disaster, given the vulgarity of their live-action movies. This was everything I had hoped it might be and more. Not only is it funny, really funny, no seriously, really, really funny, but it’s a fun plot with interesting characters and some pretty decent substance under it all at the end. The critics all seem irritated that this emulates Pixar and Disney, but to me that’s just being smart. Really. It’s an 81% at Rotten Tomatoes, and if it had actually been a Pixar or Disney, I’m sure it would have been in the 90’s.

Superficial Content: A-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B, Language A
All the violence here is so over-the-top silly and/or slapstick that I can’t see any issue with it. And this is coming from parents who still haven’t let our kids watch Tom and Jerry or Looney Toons. There is one moment where it seems like a little girl was killed after having climbed into an Iron Maiden (the torture device, not the metal band) and a red liquid comes out, but it quickly turns out to have been her juice box.

Significant Content: A
There’s only one theme here, and it’s wonderful. Love, affection, and approval can transform a monster into a good person, and this is precisely the domesticating on effect on unattached males of becoming a parent. Raised without approval, Gru becomes an arch-criminal vainly trying to fill the abyss of his missing mommy-approval, but when three little girls tenderly trust him, he reforms.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
It’s not a particularly complicated movie, but what it does, it does extremely well. Presenting a touching and needed message through a hilarious comedy with a wide variety of incisive social satire thrown in. Well done.

Discussion Questions:
~How many targets of ridicule can you spot in this movie? Start with the name of the bank for evil plots and the suburban setting of Gru’s home.
~On the one hand, Gru is a thieving villain of the worst sort. But on the other hand, when a little girl is cheated at a carnival game, his justice side takes over. Why is this dichotomy so believable? What does it show about the difference between caring for those you love an caring for strangers?
~Comparing Gru before the girls to Gru after, why such a transformation? How many men do you know who are changed by having children? Why are men, notoriously pride and status oriented before kids, so often willing to endure so much humiliation (strollers, baby-carriers, diapers, etc.) once they have their own children?
~Gru’s mother is emotionally restricted and un-nurturing. How does this shape him? Why do kids naturally crave the approval of their parents? Which is more dangerous to a child: withholding approval or giving it too easily? How does God give approval to us?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Gru remembering what it was like growing up with his mother.
~Reading the three little kittens book to the girls.
~At the carnival.
~The recital.
Overall Grade: A
Very satisfying and funny. A movie which lived up to everything it promised in the advertisements. I have at least one friend who names this as her new favorite movie.

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