Despicable Me (PG)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu
Caution: potential spoilers.
First I want to say that I didn't get to see this in a theater. And when it came out on DVD, the possibility existed of buying a bonus pack that included a second DVD with I guess a few short films based on the movie. I agonized over this, but decided not to buy the bonus pack. In fact, it was probably about a year or so later before I even got the regular DVD. And now I wish I'd gotten the bonus pack. Dammit. (Edit to add: about a year after getting the movie, I bought the bonus DVD, "Minion Madness," separately. It was pretty cute, plus it had some carnival-type games to play.)
So anyway. It's about this supervillain named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell with a fake accent that I think is supposed to be Russian, or something like that). He's basically a mean guy, but doesn't really seem full-blown evil. We'll see flashbacks to when he was a kid, and from the way his mother, Marlena (Julie Andrews) talks to him, it's easy to understand why he became a villain. Anyway, he seems to me to be fairly intelligent, but he has an assistant or whatever, called Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), who is more of a mad scientist type. It's Nefario who actually makes most (if not all) of the tech Gru uses in his crimes. I get the feeling Gru probably could have done some of that himself, but I don't think I ever actually saw him do much of anything like that. He's more about coming up with grand schemes and actually pulling them off, than doing sciency stuff, which kind of nagged at me... I want my criminal masterminds to make their own toys, dammit. But whatever. Um, he also has a ton of small, yellow "minions," which talk mostly in gibberish (somewhat reminiscent of Jawas), though occasionally they say something intelligible. (But I think Gru understands their gibberish, anyway.) And I got the sense that the minions are actually robots created by Nefario, but they act like they're alive. They definitely seem to have feelings, and relationships, and stuff. And Gru treats them like valued employees, so they clearly love him. (Whenever I get around to seeing the prequel "Minions," I may learn that I was totally wrong about their origins. For now, I'm avoiding spoilers.)
Anyway, the Great Pyramid of Giza has recently been stolen by some new supervillain, which makes Gru more determined than ever to enact his greatest scheme ever, to outdo this upstart villain. He wants to steal a shrink ray, then build a rocketship, fly to the moon, shrink it and steal it. But he needs money to finance the building of his rocket, so he goes to the Bank of Evil for a loan. There he meets a young, geeky and annoying villain named Vector (Jason Segel), in the lobby. When he goes to ask the bank manager, Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett), for a loan, Perkins refuses... because Gru hasn't even stolen the shrink ray yet. And because, apparently, too few of Gru's other schemes have turned out to be profitable. So, Gru and his minions go about stealing the shrink ray, but as soon as they do, it's stolen from them by Vector. So, Gru goes to Vector's fortress to steal it back, but his efforts to enter the fortress are repeatedly thwarted (in a sequence that reminded me somewhat of "Spy vs. Spy").
Meanwhile, there are these three adorable moppets, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith, and Agnes, who live at an orphanage run by Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig), who seems more evil than any supervillain in the movie. The girls sell cookies, like girl scouts I guess, but for Miss Hattie (who expects them to do better at it than they do). And after Gru fails to gain access to Vector's fortress, he sees Vector let the girls in so he can buy some cookies. And that's when Gru comes up with the idea to adopt the girls, and use them to gain access so he can steal back the shrink ray.
Of course, at first he sees them merely as tools (and annoying, troublesome ones, at that). It's predictable that he'll eventually learn to love them in some heartwarming way, but it takes a little while. And actually, I found it pretty cute, amusing, and even cool. I'm not sure the girls ever grasped the fact that he's a villain, even though he was mean at first, and they soon found his secret lair (at which point he claimed to be a spy). But the cool thing is... I don't think they'd mind his being a supervillain. I mean, they're kids. And aren't all kids kind of supervillains, at heart? Oh, they're definitely sweet little girls, to be sure... but I could totally see them becoming simultaneously sweet and evil. Which I think is kind of what ultimately endears them to Gru. (That, and the surprisingly simple and touching epiphany Gru has while reading them a bedtime story, that makes him realize parents can be better to their children than his own mother was to him.)
That's pretty much all I want to say about the plot. There's plenty more action and plot twists and cliches that are toyed with. It's all very funny and cute and whatnot. And there was some good music (mostly written and performed by Pharrell Williams). And I like the fact that Gru is kind of likable throughout the movie, even when being villainous. A lot of his actions are pretty mundane things that anyone might fantasize about doing, like using a freeze ray on the people in line at the coffee shop to cut to the front, or coyly threatening his neighbor's dog. (The great thing about being a supervillain is the simple perk of not giving a rat's ass what anyone thinks, which frees you from the necessities of false politeness and inconvenience.) And I like the fact that, even when the movie is being all heartwarming and sweet, it's still got an edge to it. Actually, there are lots of little things about the movie that I kinda love. Including the roller coaster scene (all the fun of being on the ride, none of the nausea). Oh yeah also, I guess I should say this was a 3-D movie, but of course I didn't get to see it in 3-D. It probably would've been more fun. And I guess that's all I can think to say.