It’s kind of hard to outright hate Despicable Me, even though it’s only a mediocre animated comedy aimed at children. It’s got some heart, it contains some laughs, and it’s nowhere near bad enough to hate. But is it often annoying? Yeah, it is. And is it as smart as it wants to be? Not really, no. It’s a mixed bag, although it’ll be a success for children—and that’s all that it wants to be, anyway.
Our film is led by Gru (voice of Steve Carell), a wannabe supervillain. He’s pulled off some thefts in the past, but is mostly thought of as a joke in the villain community. He lives in an average neighborhood and hasn’t done anything successfully in quite some time, even though he’s got a whole bunch of minions at his command. He can’t even get funding for his next evil plan, which involves stealing the moon. Poor Gru. He doesn’t even want cookies from the local orphans. Who doesn’t want cookies? Even villains—like Gru’s rival, Vector (Jason Segel)—like cookies!
The girls who are selling the cookies are Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Gru winds up adopting them to use them for an evil plan. But where the film’s heart comes into play is how Gru eventually winds up liking being a father and genuinely bonding with his children. You know he’s going to have to make a choice between the kids and pulling off a successful evil plan, and you probably even know what he’s going to pick. The film’s predictable but also heartwarming.
It’s also at its best when it only follows its zany characters doing silly things. Since its story isn’t its strong point, it has to rely on weirdness and insanity to keep us entertained. The minions, who are tiny yellow blob things, carry some of the load in this regard, although the kids also get into a bunch of silly situations. Gru tries to straight-man his way through much of it, but even he gets caught up in it at times. Yeah, all of that is more enjoyable than the actual plot.
Most of Despicable Me is just a forgettable animated movie about a creepy man adopting and using children for his nefarious purposes before eventually letting them into his heart for real.
On the one hand, Despicable Me is kind of creepy, too, and probably not in the way that the filmmakers intended. Gru’s a weird cat, and he adopts the children by lying. That’s … creepy, you know? The heartwarming stuff that follows the initial adoption, using, and discarding of the children doesn’t entirely make up for that. And the film doesn’t address that or even use it as a way to criticize the adoption process. It’s not smart or clever enough to do something like that. It just skips over it and hopes we don’t notice.
None of the action is particularly enjoyable, lots of the comedy will appeal only to those under the age of 12, and even then that might be a stretch. It’s colorful and fast-moving enough that lots of people—mostly kids—aren’t going to care, but that doesn’t excuse it. Mostly it just winds up being “fine,” which means it’s hard to hate but not exactly the easiest thing to love, either.
At least Steve Carell’s voice work as Gru is quite good. He’s got good comedic timing, and his Russian accent is … well, it’s not a “good” Russian accent, but it works well for Gru, if you get what I’m saying. Jason Segel is unmemorable as the antagonist, Russell Brand is here as Gru’s non-minion assistant (a scientist), Julie Andrews provides some laughs as Gru’s mother, and all three of the kids are just fine. Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Ken Jeong, Danny McBride, and Mindy Kaling all have small roles, and you’re not even going to notice that they’re who they are.
Most of Despicable Me is just a forgettable animated movie about a creepy man adopting and using children for his nefarious purposes before eventually letting them into his heart for real. Is it particularly good? Not really, but it’ll entertain kids, it’ll provide adults with a few laughs, and it’s not bad. It’s a mediocrely decent enough effort that it’s not likely to bore you or irritate you due to a lack of quality. You can at least tell that the filmmakers care, and that counts for something. Despicable Me isn’t really worth watching but, if you do see it, at least it won’t feel like a waste of time.
Conclusion: Despicable Me is just mediocre enough to not hate.
Recommendation: If you are a kid, you’ll probably want to see Despicable Me. I don’t think adults need to.