Updated: Dec 22, 2019
A criminal genius uses a team of three orphan girls to achieve a mission but soon finds that their love causes him to have a change of heart.
Despicable Me (2010), directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, tells the tale of the villainous Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his wacky, villain-ridden world, complete with an underground villain bunker, villainous weaponry, a villainous partner in crime and a – uh, not so villainous – horde of minions to do his bidding. When the supervillain business turns sticky, Gru enlists the help of three foster girls – Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) – who he finds, to his alarm, quickly become the objects of his affection.
Directors Coffin and Renaud explore the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the supervillain lifestyle with inventiveness and expertise. It's clear that these blokes are having nothing but fun exploring this unhinged world.
It's clear that these blokes are having nothing but fun exploring this unhinged world.
Steve Carell gives one of his most full-throttled, hilarious voice performances in his portrayal of Gru - the “protagonist” (in quotations as the movie goes to great lengths to challenge the typical “protagonist” by framing Gru as a quasi-hero; and the unique exploration of such contrasting ideas is what makes Despicable Me a definitive modern classic).
Gru’s competitor is orange-clad supervillain, Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) whose mannerisms confirm that he is indeed not too dissimilar from Gru. The difference lies in their “workplace” and how they go about their business: Gru, choosing to ignore the love surrounding him, is laser-focused (no pun intended) on becoming the “World’s Greatest Villain”; Vector, however, is surrounded by white, emotionless walls, cookies and pet sharks with spades of apathy to go with it all.
If it already sounds too zany, just wait until the third act. Too often we see the romanticised idea of the supervillain. Despicable Me, however, dares to do what films like Suicide Squad (2016) and The Grinch (2018) could not - get the audience rooting for the supervillain-turned-good-guy; a feat even more admirable given the targeted child-centric demographic. But make no mistake, this movie also boasts some witty gems and sophisticated plot threads that would have the typical adult embarrassingly invested; only to be brought back to earth with the recurring fart-gun gag!
Despicable Me is a fresh, nuanced and tasteful masterpiece that walks the fine line between being too crude for its own good and being a heartwarming story about the redemption of love, with impeccable balance. It dares to explore the good in the bad. It dares to be risky in its casting choices. It dares to omit a genuine scary villain, in favour of two full-grown adults whose juvenile catfight for the title of “World’s Greatest Villain” drives the entire action. You wouldn’t find a more unlikely candidate on the list; but the fact that it is already considered a modern classic – at the time of writing this, a decade from its release – is a true testament to its genius.