In an attempt to establish themselves as genuine rivals to the sublime Pixar, Universal Pictures offers up its debut 3D animation in the form of Despicable Me (2010), directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud.
With an output of unprecedented consistency and visual resplendence over recent years, it may seem an almost impossible task to take on the work of Pixar without conceding to the inevitable conclusion that no other studio are quite ready to compete at the present time. Just take Toy Story 3 (2010), Up (2009) and WALL-E (2008) as such glowing examples of what Universal are up against.
With this in mind, I believe that to make such comparisons with the above-mentioned contemporary classics would be both too easy and unfair on the film in question.
Despicable Me follows the evil Gru, voiced brilliantly by Steve Carell, and his constant and usually failed attempts to become the world’s greatest criminal mastermind. Whilst trying to thwart his arch nemesis, Vector (Jason Segel), Gru adopts three innocent, young orphaned girls, in the hope that they will be able to assist him in his plan to steal a magical shrink-ray gun; therefore allowing him to shrink and steal the moon. What follows is an inevitable, yet thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining journey for Gru, as his love for his newly adopted girls begins to outweigh his desire for criminal notoriety.
One of Despicable Me’s strongest assets are the voice acting on offer. Carell, a name to usually steer me a country mile clear of anything with which he is associated, is absolutely perfect as Gru. His comically evil Russian accent is a superb accompaniment to the lead character’s appearance. Equally outstanding is the vocal acting of Russell Brand as Gru’s long-suffering inventor, Dr Nefario, providing some of the film’s funniest moments merely through the sound of his voice, without falling into the trap of overstating the performance.
The film’s visuals are also beautifully executed, with the darkness of Gru’s mansion being expertly offset to the bold, bright colours of the outside world. The appearance of Gru’s tiny workers, small yellow creatures in dungarees, is also one of Despicable Me’s major visual strengths, adding to the movie’s vibrant aesthetic.
Whilst the storyline is incredibly predictable from start to finish, and many of its comic set pieces highly derivative from a whole host of children’s movies throughout the years, Despicable Me is still a perfectly adequate and thoroughly entertaining family film. Although it may not be quite in the same league as many of Pixar’s latest productions, it is certainly capable of holding its own against most of the other animated family films currently being churned out by the Hollywood CGI production line.