Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell
Runtime: 95 mins
Let’s get this out of the way: I cried at this film. That’s not saying much, admittedly, considering you’re reading the words of someone who cried at Cool Runnings, but then that same person is one of the few who believes that Cool Runnings is a masterpiece of modern cinema.
Despicable Me tells a fairly simple story: evil super-villain Steve Carell launches a plan to steal the moon, in a scheme that involves adopting three girls to unwittingly help him steal a shrink ray from his arch-nemesis (Jason Segel). He’s aided by an old-looking evil scientist (Russell Brand), is hunted by the constant put-downs of his mother (Julie Andrews), and eventually becomes a better person by growing to love the three girls, who are animated adorably by French animation studio Mac Guff. It’s not quite a plot that’d perplex a rocket scientist, but that’s not the point.
This is Universal’s first animated feature, and – incredibly, in a world where the majority of non-Pixar animation is awful, and where Belleville Rendez-Vous and L’Illusioniste lack universal appeal – it really delivers. The plot is airtight, the script is (mainly) kept free of clichés, and Universal have sensibly used an animation studio that clearly know what they’re doing.
There are a couple of criticisms to be made. It’s in 3D, a format on which I’m not yet sold (it’s expensive; I’m a student). And it features songs written by Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. fame, which are all terrible. But these are quibbles. Generally, Despicable Me is heartwarming, entertaining and surprisingly cathartic. Pixar might have finally met their match.