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Trying to outdo his main rival Vector, serial villain Gru hatches a plan to steal the moon, aided by his army of minions. About to set his dastardly plan in motion, and bristling with his arsenal of freeze-rays and sci-fi gadgetry, all goes according to plan until the arrival at his door of three little orphan girls, Margo, Agnes and Edith, in search of a father figure.
For more about Despicable Me and the Despicable Me Blu-ray release, see Despicable Me Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 15, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
» See full cast & crew
Despicable Me Blu-ray Review
"We are going to pull off the true crime of the century. We are going to steal the moon!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 15, 2010
Pixar and Dreamworks have long held a stranglehold on critically acclaimed computer animated films, and for very good reason. Other animation studios have tried to earn a seat near the head of the table, they really have. But few have produced the kind of memorable, fully realized family fare that Hollywood's go-to animation houses have delivered over the last fifteen years. Well, it looks as if the times, they are a-changin'. While Pixar and Dreamworks served up their best films to date in 2010 -- Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, respectively -- another clever contender confidently strode into the ring: Illumination Entertainment. Without an in-house animation studio at their disposal, Illumination turned to outside talent around the world; a move that could have ended in failure, but instead gave us Despicable Me, a sharp, sprightly slice of family fun. Illumination not only beat Dreamworks to the punch, releasing an animated film about rival supervillains some four months before Megamind debuted, it outclassed its Mega-competition in nearly every way. In fact, Despicable Me has but one weakness: comparisons to the year's best, How to Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3.
Meet Gru (Steve Carell), the world's most despicable supervillain. Evil in every conceivably cartoonish way, he and his army of Minions (voiced by co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) strike fear around the globe, swiping monuments and wreaking havoc on a helpless populous. Until, that is, rival madman Vector (Jason Segel) steals Gru's thunder -- and subsequent reputation as the planet's Number One Supervillain -- by staging an elaborate heist involving the entire Pyramid of Giza. Before long, the Bank of Evil's president, Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett), refuses to fund Gru's next act of villainy, stealing the moon, until Gru can obtain a shrink ray from a maximum security facility overseas. To Gru's dismay though, Vector thwarts his plans once again, nabbing the shrink ray and locking it away within his impenetrable lair. Not one to be outdone, Gru takes note of Vector's love of cookies, adopts three young girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) from a local orphanage, and uses their cookie-selling skills to infiltrate Vector's home. Everything goes according to plan... everything except the affection Gru begins to develop for the girls. But can the world's greatest villain become the world's greatest dad?
Despicable Me is at its best when it clings to its premise -- two supervillains shall enter, one shall leave -- but the film's softer, sweeter subplots rarely detract from the thrust of the story. If anything, they enhance it. Gru is the main attraction here, and Coffin and Renaud keep him front and center as often as the narrative permits. The girls are a catalyst for change; they don't steal the show, their presence isn't overwhelming, and their cute-n-cuddly, rough-n-tumble schtick is deployed with restraint and sharp comic timing. But the girls aren't afterthoughts either. Margo's streetwise cynicism keeps the band of orphans in check, Edith's tomboy tomfoolery strikes a nice balance between the sisters, and little Agnes' brazen naivety rounds out the trio perfectly. They come to trust Gru in different ways and, in turn, rekindle feelings in his still-vulnerable heart he thought he successfully buried decades before. To their credit, Coffin, Renaud and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul make Gru's inevitable transition from baddie to daddy believable, funny and, yes, even heartwarming. A number of supporting characters play equally important roles in his slow-but-steady transformation -- his elderly live-in collaborator, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand); hundreds of childlike creations dubbed Minions; and his dear dastardly mum (Julie Andrews) -- and his battles with Vector are woven into the fabric of the story perfectly. Despicable Me could have easily been a haphazard string of set pieces and gags, but the filmmakers connect dozens of plot points with Pixar precision.
So why doesn't Despicable Me resonate more than it does? To be honest, I had a hard time putting my finger on the exact reason and began wondering if 2010's best animated films were clouding my vision. Every complaint I had was a minor one -- Carell's accent struck me as more of a gimmick than a shrewd creative decision, Gru's past exploits were never exploited, the film's second act was a tad slow, the animation itself didn't exactly blow me away, and Pharrell Williams' music never won me over, among other quibbles -- and I grinned and laughed throughout. Despicable Me simply doesn't hold up as well under close scrutiny as a true animated classic. It's a blast the first time through; an inspired delight even. But multiple viewings, and further thought, reveal a few flaws. None that are fatal, just those that diminish its staying power. Should that keep anyone away from Illumination Entertainment's first film? Or leave anyone with doubts about the studio's next animated outings, Hop and Dr. Seuss' The Lorax? Not at all. Despicable Me may not be the insta-classic the original Toy Story was for Pixar, but I'd take Despicable Me over Dreamworks' first two computer animated efforts (Antz and Shrek) any day of the week. Regardless of whether or not you have kids tearing around your house, Despicable Me is worth watching. Give it a spin and see if it leaves your inner-villain mwa-ha-ha'ing.
Despicable Me Blu-ray, Video Quality
No quibbles here. Despicable Me's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation held me captive for ninety-five eye-popping minutes. Colors erupt to dazzling effect, primaries singe the screen, and blacks are rich and inky. Contrast never falters either, and every frame is as polished and pristine as the last. Mac Guff's slick animation isn't exactly teeming with textures, but overall clarity is impeccable, edge definition is razor sharp, and every single detail, no matter how small, has been rendered directly from the digital tap. Watch as Gru hurtles down the street in his rocket car, as dozens of missiles loom above his head, as hundreds of Minions work themselves into a frenzy, as Vector unleashes his most deadly toys, as our once-despicable villain takes Margo and her sisters to a crowded amusement park... not a scene goes by without leaving an impression. Yes, some softness creeps into the image from time to time, particularly when Gru and Vector square off above the sun-streaked clouds during their climactic battle, but each and every instance is the result of the animators' intentions and nothing more. And the technical encode? Artifacting, noise and other compression anomalies never invade the proceedings, and the negligible bursts of banding and aliasing that do appear are brief, inconspicuous, and easy to miss altogether. (They certainly aren't pervasive or distracting enough to warrant any reduction in score.) Despicable Me looks fantastic from beginning to end, and nothing about Universal's presentation leaves any room for complaint. Enjoy!
Despicable Me Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track arrives in force and obliterates anyone who dares stand in its way. The LFE channel establishes its dominance early and often, embracing every roaring explosion, blazing fireball, window-rattling impact, devastating armament, and throaty engine the film has to offer. The rear speakers are lively and engaging as well, filling the stage with all the hustle and bustle you'd expect from an amusement park, a crowd of stunned bystanders or a Minion pep rally. All the while, missiles rocket from channel to channel with deadly accuracy, directional effects are playful and convincing, and Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams' music takes advantage of the entire soundfield. Loud and rowdy as it can be though, the mix is just as perfectly suited to quieter scenes between Gru and his girls. Dialogue is crisp, clear and perfectly grounded in the world Renaud and Coffin have created, and lines are never lost, no matter how subdued or outlandish the soundscape becomes. Like its video presentation, Despicable Me's lossless monster is marvelous. I can't imagine anyone will be dissatisfied with the results.
Despicable Me Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Despicable Me teases filmfans of all ages with a lengthy list of special features, but fails to deliver a truly satisfying experience. The film's Picture-in-Picture track amounts to a 96-minute gimmick; its audio commentary is far too dry for kids, yet panders to a younger audience every time the Minions pay the filmmakers a visit; and its remaining goodies are limited to three admittedly amusing animated shorts, two decent EPKs and a string of hit-or-miss bonuses. Appreciated? Absolutely. The stuff of supplemental legend? Hardly.
Despicable Me Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despicable Me may not stand shoulder to shoulder with the year's best animated films, but it is a strong showing from newcomer Illumination Entertainment. Fast, funny and full of life, it does what Megamind couldn't: make animation fans of all ages care about its lovable villain and his plight. Universal's Blu-ray release is even better. Granted, its supplemental package isn't everything it could be, but its video encode and DTS-HD Master Audio track are, each one delivering the top-tier goods animation junkies have come to expect on Blu-ray. If you have kids, picking up Despicable Me is a no-brainer. If not, well... picking up Despicable Me is a no-brainer. Here's hoping Illumination Entertainment does for Dr. Seuss what it did for supervillains.
Despicable Me: Other Editions
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