What makes a person a villain? What is it that makes a person turn bad? Why are villains more interesting than heroes?
Though a cartoon, “Despicable Me” comes with a deep message. Gru (Steve Carrell) lives in a neighborhood of white picket fences, but his home is blackened with dead grass. And down inside, in his hideaway, he plans to steal the moon.
Aided by his yellow pill-shaped minions and an old mad scientist named Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), Gru plots pulling the moon from the sky. Why? Because he is a villain and that is what villains do.
We discover that Gru grew up without a father, and his mother (Julie Andrews) was not very motherly. All she ever did was put him down and crush his dream of going to the moon.
Amazingly, Gru is not mad at his mother or otherwise psychologically disturbed. He just does evil in order to prove to her that he is worth her love. That may sound illogical, but we see how much good Gru’s heart holds when three little girls come into his life.
Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) are three orphans sent door to door selling cookies for the really evil Miss Hattie (Kristin Wiig). Miss Hattie runs the orphanage where the girls live, and she is like a modern-day Fagin who uses her girls to keep herself comfortable.
The girls appear at the door of Vector (Jason Segel), who has the shrink ray that Gru needs to capture the moon. Vector loves cookies and quickly invites the girls inside. When Gru sees the girls gain easy entrance to Vector’s home, he realizes he can use the girls to get the ray.
So Gru adopts the girls, and we see that Gru is not as bad as he portrays himself to be. He’s not as despicable as the movie’s title declares.
“Despicable Me” trades on something that another movie company does well. Pixar creates stories that are, at their heart, about family relationships. “Despicable Me” presents us with the failure of family as a catalyst for both good and bad.
Gru is very much a product of his family environment. He is shaped by a mother who loves him in ways that are hard to understand. Families do that; they show love in ways it may take us years to comprehend.
Amazingly, Gru never gives up on his mother. She is very much a presence in his life, even with her strange ways.
As to the movie’s presentation, I did not see this in 3-D (2-D was my only option). Yet, I feel I did not miss a thing.
When all is said and done, “Despicable Me” is a nice movie with many laughs about a villain who turns out to be more interesting than a hero.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and mild action. Reviewer’s note: Light bits of bathroom humor.
Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Writers: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Voices: Steve Carell: Gru; Russell Brand: Dr. Nefario; Jason Segel: Vector; Julie Andrews: Gru’s Mom; Miranda Cosgrove: Margo; Dana Gaier: Edith; Elsie Fisher: Agnes; Kristen Wiig: Miss Hattie.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.