Despicable is a very colorful movie full of interesting characters. Young children will love it. I didn’t.
First of all, those yellow minions are cute, but don’t seem to have any real purpose other than to get kids to like them so that parents will buy toy copies of them which will be dug out of the couch cushions before the year is up. The minions don’t have personality, they talk gibberish, and they make photocopies of their bottoms.
Secondly, the villain’s name is Gru and he has a thick Russian accent. Of course we know that the GRU is the Russian military spy organization, which distracted me and kept me wondering whether those so-called spies who were recently arrested were just clever marketing by the makers of the summer movies.
I have recently been reading quite a number of books in which the GRU is prominently mentioned, which is why this slapped me in the face. Perhaps others would not notice. Still, I think we should be done with the old Cold War Evil-Empire thing by now. On the other hand, since having a turbaned Jihadist as someone trying to be the world greatest villain would be too scary, the Ruskies are going to have to take the parts. We wouldn’t want to have an Evil Genius who looks like the people we are actually afraid of. It would give the parents the heebie-jeebies, and cause children to ask really embarrassing questions like, “Well then, why don’t we go after the Saudis?”
Sadly, Gru is not original. He is copy-catted from Goob in Meet the Robinsons, in that he is emotionally-starved, intent on making up for his abandonment, and has spaghetti-thin legs. While Goob stole inventions so he could ruin Lewis’s life, Gru steals inventions so he can become the worst villain ever. He decides to steal the Shrink Ray owned by another villain whose name is Vector. Vector is the spoiled son of the President of the Bank of Evil, “formerly known as Lehman Brothers,” which I laughed at, but which isn’t really funny. It is unclear why the BoE would want to fund Gru’s and Vector’s escapades at all–what can one do with the Great Pyramid, anyway? (In the movie, it is a gigantic yard decoration, making no money whatever for the BoE, who presumably financed its heist.)
Without the Shrink Ray, Gru will fall into the netherworld of evil has-beens, so he comes up with a despicable plot–to “adopt” three little girls, send them to Vector’s house to sell him cookies, and while they are inside, some of the cookies will be turn out to be Robot Cookies, will scurry around and steal the Shrink Ray by remote control. The cookie-bots have little hats–again, like the evil Doris hats in Robinsons, although these hats are little blue Russian military hats, which caused me to actually groan out loud. (In a throw-away scene, Dr. Nefario–Gru’s in-house inventor of evil gadgets–misunderstands Gru and makes a set of boogie robots instead of cookie robots. To be fair, others in the theater thought this was the funniest thing Hollywood has ever done. And, relying on body-inspired humor, the boogie-bots have boobs, which, again, others thought amusing.)
Once the Moon is his, Gru will have no more use for the girls and will return them to Miss Hattie’s orphanage which looks exactly like the orphanage in Robinsons, with the addition of Boxes of Shame.
The girls, however, are determined not to be sent back to the vile Miss Hattie who looks as though she was pumped up with a bicycle pump. In fact, for reasons not clear they decide they love Gru and want him to be their Daddy. There is a very neat roller coaster scene, which I couldn’t actually watch fully because I am afraid of riding roller coasters, whether they are real or not. We learn that children will love you and want to stay with you forever if you take them on rides and blow up carnival attractions to get them stuffed animals, which might possibly be true, who knows?
Gru gets the Shrink Ray and steals the Moon. There is a teeny-tiny scene of a surfer losing the tide, which is shame, because how great would it have been if the world had been in a tideless turmoil, Gru had been declared the Winner in the Evil Contest and been given everything he ever wanted….and then come into the bedroom to see the girls weeping because Mr. Moon wasn’t hanging in the sky so beautifully? None of that happens, alas, and we don’t know what he intends to do with the Moon, or if anyone cares that he has it.
It turns out that the Shrink Ray’s powers are not permanent, so we are faced with the interesting idea that the Moon, as it grows back to its ordinary size, is also able to hurl itself back out of Earth orbit, pushed by the smallest amount of left-over rocket fuel. And, although we saw in a previous scene that a minion sent out of orbit will continue to float outward forever in the frictionlessness of space, the Moon knows exactly where to stop.
Strangely, the movie is not funny at all. What laughs it gets are mostly potty humor. And it’s slow. And there are scenes that don’t advance the plot. I feel harsh here, but I felt worse at the movie saying, “Okay, can we get on with the plot advancement?” and wishing I had bought popcorn. I didn’t, because a self-respecting woman of my age cannot buy popcorn for a pre-lunch matinee.
Well, as expected, Gru ends up loving the girls and saving them from Certain Death at the hands of Vector.
The most unfulfilling part of the movie is that Gru–although he lovingly incorporates the girls into his life, and even seemingly reconciles with his cruel mother–does not repent of being a bad guy. He doesn’t turn to a life of good deeds or even give back the things he had stolen before. The only reason he doesn’t have the Moon is that the Moon got too big and went back home. For all this movie’s failings, had it come around to a fulfilling moral conclusion, I would have liked it.