Any film, particularly comedies and even more so with animated comedies, relies on a certain element of luck. You can have the greatest script, fantastic cast and amazing director but if the chemistry doesn’t fit or the audience don’t quite “get it” then all your ingredients won’t make the success you thought it would. Its even more difficult for animated movies because of the amount of them that are made. The sheer quantity means that you must have a special something to get noticed. I don’t think the creators of Despicable Me realised what they had when they first devised the Minions.
From the moment these characters are on-screen, the movie changes. It adds an extra, simple but effective element of comedy that brings this movie up above most other animated films around at the time. These characters are stupid, devoted but “real.” They have great emotions, regular names and interact with each other in such a way that you can’t help but be entertained. Of all the wacky characters in this movie, the Minions are the ones that shine and they don’t even have that much to do or contribute.
They aren’t the only positive about the movie though. Steve Carell plays evil villain Gru and does so fantastically. I thought the accent would become irritating but it actually adds a great dimension to the character. The scene where we meet the villain for the first time is one of the coolest introductions to any character. Its hilarious and effective, summing-up his character in one five-minute clip.
It’s a shame the other characters are all slightly too silly and one-dimensional. We are introduced to three girls that play an integral part in the story and alter Gru’s life. Aside from the youngest, Agnes, who brings cute to another level, the others don’t have a distinctive enough character. You could have played up the tomboy image of one and the intelligent, level-headed aspect of the other. Instead they are slightly generic and it loses some of its edge.
In fact, once the story has got underway, the film does begin to lag. You have key moments that stand-out, the fairground and Gru trying to get into his nemesis’ hideout to name two, but the rest falls short and ends up being quite generic and plays through the usual animated movie clichés. You can guess the ending and how the film will resolve itself. The first half hour is original and funny and the last half hour, when the action and story thrusts into full flow, is also very entertaining. If you removed the Minions from the middle section of the film though, very little would stand-out about Despicable Me.
That doesn’t make it a bad film, just not a great one. It’s so much harder to make incredible animated movies, particularly with Pixar maintaining a high-level, even with their worst output and other studios stepping it up, particularly with movies such as How to Train your Dragon and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Despicable Me does have something magic but its such a minor part of the movie that you miss it when it’s not on-screen.
Overall, Despicable Me is a great idea, with a great cast and very unique characters. This doesn’t save it from feeling slightly generic compared to a lot of other animated films that are being made and have been released around the same time. The moment the Minions are on-screen though, the film reaches another level. These little characters are comedy gold and just about save the movie from kid’s film obscurity.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)