In the opening minutes of Despicable Me, Steve Carell's polymorphously perverse super-villain, Gru--whose character design seems to have been modeled after Charles Adams' Uncle Fester--gives a balloon animal to a small child only to pop it with a pin, freezes a long line of patrons of a Starbucks-like establishment in order to steal a cup of coffee and a muffin, and threatens to kill his neighbor's dog for "bombing" his front lawn: less the cataclysmic, world-wide havoc normally wreaked by your average super-villain in his prime, and more the feeble puttering of a once great baddie now comfortably settled into retirement in some sleepy suburban town. But when he learns that the new villain in town--Jason Segel's Vector--has recently absconded with the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru assembles his "minions"--balding, yellow, tablet-shaped things with goggles; a species among which Cyclopsism seems to be fairly common--and sets out upon his most fiendish plot yet: to steal the moon!
You can figure out the rest from there: as it's modeled on any number of classic Disney films, it features its fair share of cruel adults and victimized children, yet the film lacks any sort of pathos so the lazy recapitulation of these now exhausted tropes appears at times to be the fulfillment of some contractual requirement of post-Disney animated films, rather than integral elements of an essential whole, and therefore can evoke in viewers, juvenile or otherwise, no "real" emotions--not even fear, as the best of them always did: even two scenes presumably featuring the impending deaths children are played for laughs. As for the film's humor aspects: the absurd sort of Eastern European accent of Steve Carrell and Russell Brand's--which seems to change from Cockney to Estuary to Kensington and back again at various points throughout the film--can only sustain even a pre-adolescent viewer's interest for so long: most of the jokes--and there aren't many--fall flat.
The film features two soundtracks: an orchestral score composed by Hans Zimmer, Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes, performed by a 67-piece ensemble, and a collection of mid-nineties trip-hop and (for some reason) disco influenced songs and soundscapes headed up by Williams. While Zimmer can seemingly do no wrong, the decision to summon Williams was a chancy one given that no feature of a film is surer to date it more rapidly than a "topical" music selection. This process will surely be accelerated by Pharrell's conscious chanelling already anachronistic genres. Nevertheless is the film sustained by its animation, Gru's heartwarming cuddle-ificaiton in light of becoming the guardian of three equally cuddly orphans and various other cuddly and cute scenes and sight gags which often elicit slightly more than a mild smirk.
Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud's audio commentary begins with a cutesy appearance by some of the aforementioned helium-voiced, gibberish-speaking minions discussing their "acting methods"--to mildly spoil the fun, these are voiced by Coffin, presumably without any vocal processing, which is fairly impressive. Other noteworthy asides: discussion of the influence upon the project of French illustrative traditions: Renaud and Coffin, who is French, collaborated with animator Carter Goodrich (who contributed work to Parisian-themed Ratatouille) and a French model department to create the film's many comically detailed character designs--the film was made entirely in Paris, with voice actors recording their lines and receiving directions from Renaud via satellite--and a brief glimpse of the filmmaker's temporary obsession with perfecting Gru's trademark scarf: a detail which, in their eyes, renders the character more likeable, which makes perfect sense in a mad way.
Unfortunately it also features a lot of mutual backslapping regarding the film's ingenious narratory construction and how funny the finished product is, but this is forgivable considering that only fans of the film will be listening to this and will for the most part agree with Renaud and Coffin's incessant self-approbation, and they often offer a great deal of insight into what, precisely, an animation director does, which should be of some interest to those unfamiliar with the requirements of the role.
The Blu-Ray/DVD package is comparatively light on bonus materials and easter eggs, and what's on offer is fairly uninteresing: first, a (hardly comprehensive) short subject documentary--more a long form trailer--regarding the film's general premise; then another odd, very short documentary (clip) dealing with Pharrell William's participation film's scoring which mainly consists of his collaborators talking about what a genius he is, and finally a slightly more in-depth look into the animation process--perhaps because this is the film's strongest feature. Also impressive is a DVDi quiz on famous landmarks--it was fairly easy, but presumably this is for children.
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