It’s official: marketing executives hate fun.
Last year they ran Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs into the ground with cheesy trailers showcasing obnoxious slapstick gags and fart jokes. This year they crapped up How To Train Your Dragon, focusing on all the “zany” mistakes Hiccup makes fighting no-name dragons rather than any of the movie’s legitimately beautiful moments. And now we have Despicable Me, a film which, if we are to believe its advertising, is about the feud between an obese Russian named Gru and his archnemesis—some Bill Gates lookalike—with several idiotic yellow pylons thrown in for comic relief. Luckily, as with the other two films, Despicable Me reflects neither the tone or mood conveyed in its marketing campaign, and is actually downright enjoyable.
Gru is an evil genius who, after stealing the New York Jumbotron and Las Vegas Eiffel Tower/Statue of Liberty, has finally been outthieved by Vector, a bejumpsuited nerd who stole the Pyramids of Giza—and hid them behind his house by painting some clouds on them. In retaliation, Gru plans his biggest heist yet—stealing the moon. Of course, plans aren’t that simple, as he’s refused funding from The Bank of Evil until he can prove ownership of a Shrink Ray; this becomes problematic as Vector walks away with the ray after a battle of thieves, leaving Gru to find his own way into his enemy’s hideout. After a little espionage he witnesses three orphan girls invited in to sell their Coconutties—a cookie madmen apparently gobble up—and begins plotting to adopt the girls and use them to get his Shrink Ray.
So begins a heartwarming tale of theft and fatherhood. Despicable Me is a little unfair in the same way as Marley and Me—by using three adorable orphan girls as Gru’s pawns (and they’re frickin’ adorable), the writers cash in on cheap emotional pangs; it’s difficult not to feel a little sympathetic for someone after watching them ask if someone tried to adopt them that day (then being told no). This said, the film is hilarious and chock full of comedy for kids and adults alike—it criticizes the stupid humor shoehorned into every children’s film as much as it indulges in it, and hooks you with an emotional investment—however cheaply earned—in its characters’ fates. Gru is as enjoyable as a jerk inflating balloon animals for children only so he can pop them as he is while fathering the orphans—is a surprisingly well-written villain, unlike his archnemesis Vector, who vacillates between incompetent creator of fish-based weaponry and militant defense supergod. This poor guy is the film’s single weak leg—he’s only on-screen for about twenty minutes, and his character’s villainy is so disparate that I couldn’t tell if he was some kind of demonic hellspawn or just really really lucky. Regardless, Despicable Me is a lot of fun; if you’re looking for a little relaxation and some good childish enjoyment, this is your flick—considering you haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet.