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Despicable Me Movie Review
© 2010 by Sportscar Projects Ltd.
July 10, 2010
Despicable Me (Microsoft) leverages loans from the Bank of Evil (Lehman Brothers) to steal the moon! This allegory of corporate domination of the world is disguised as a cute kid flick with giggling minions and lovable orphans but you can enjoy it at a whole other level while the wee ones laugh at the many rocket gags. One Word Movie Review: Great Despicable Me is the first film from a new Paris animation studio and the Gallic charm and continental humor oozes out of every computer-generated frame of this film. The dastardly supervillians have grand plans to steal priceless, gigantic objects like the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and the big round thing that orbits the earth. This creates gags galore from the crazy planning to the goofy gadgets needed to pull off such thefts, along with an army of the cutest minions ever. Just as playful and even more amusing are the metaphors to capitalism, mega-corporations and the use of leverage to fund such elaborate thefts.
The fact that each supervillian needs a loan to finance their plans and must compete with each other for the bank’s approval is a dig at the whole economic absurdity of subprime toxic loans. As figureheads for world dominators, who better to inspire the supervillians than Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, perhaps the most powerful capitalist monopoly in existence today? If you find this somewhat hard to believe, take a look at the two villains in Despicable Me and tell me they are not twins separated at birth:
Vector Supervillian and Bill Gates: Separated at Birth?
Gru Supervillian and Steve Ballmer: Separated at Birth? The filmmakers admit to using Peter Sellers and Rowan Atkinson as their inspiration for the two main villains, for their comic antics. For visual inspiration, I think it is clear where their reference points come from. Of course in a G-rated movie, it is all about the jokes and cute, playful kids doing the darndest things. There is all that but much more as well, a clever playfulness to the story that is several cuts above the standard fare for this genre. All you had to see were the dreadful trailers for Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Nanny McPhee Returns to appreciate the level of humor and charm driving Despicable Me. As I usually only review the #1 movies of the week, I sit in dread as the trailers go by, hoping some movies never find the #1 audience ranking so I will be spared having to sit through them. The latest
Cats & Dogs and Nanny McPhee are movies I hope to miss altogether. Despicable Me deserves a large audience because it is a great movie and we need to encourage the few adventurous people left in Hollywood to take chances with new stories instead of pre-sold, pre-packaged adaptations of every damn comic or TV show ever made. The Story The story starts in the desert, with a goat herder run over by a tour bus rushing to the Great Pyramid. It soon becomes plain the Pyramid has been stolen and replaced by giant inflatable copy, exposing the whole secret world of thievery on a grand scale. This rarified world of supervillians takes on any job, the bigger the better, and all financed by the Bank of Evil (BOE - formerly Lehman Brothers). Like any loan application, the bank requires certain conditions before giving a loan. Their evil plan must be likely to success and also be the best available opportunity for the bank’s funds. Gru has been the favored client of BOE but has been displaced by the new guy in town, Vector. Vector (real name Victor but he’s changed it to imply he’s got direction and magnitude in his evil activities) is a nerd turned nefarious bad guy,
inventing weapons like a squid gun which shoots live squids. Vector and Gru set out to steal the super-secret shrink ray guy being developed at a secret base and essential if one plans to steal the moon. Something that large needs to be shrunk down to a manageable size in order to sneak it out of the sky in a briefcase. As Gru and Vector compete, it becomes clear to Gru that he needs the help of a group of orphan girls in order to infiltrate Vector’s super-defensive fortress headquarters so he adopts three charming ladies from “Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls” and uses their efforts to sell orphanage cookies door to door as the cornerstone of his elaborate plan. Of course, he has issues with his own mother, so Pru treats the girls with minimal affection until bedtime. Once he gives in and reads them a story, you know he’s going down the path of devotion and undying love for these three angels to the detriment of all his evil plans. The basic structure of the story allows for many comic moments as Pru and his minions prepare for the moon theft, inventing robotic cookies and other key gadgets as part of the grand plan. The logic of the thievery makes perfect sense in a child’s silly point of view and this is another source of both humor and charm as the innocence of the young provides keen
observations of this villainous world. There is a great bit where the youngest girl asks the nerdy Vector, “why are you wearing pajamas?” His insistence on calling his clothes a “warm-up suit” sums up the entire loser persona of most evil genius characters who stay home all day plotting and scheming – warming up for their big moment that never really arrives. Pru’s drive to over-achieve is the direct result of his mother’s parenting abuse, as in telling him at a young age that he can’t go to the moon because “NASA’s not sending monkeys into space anymore!” Ouch. Vector is also driven to please his demanding father. So, parents take note as you sit in the theater watching these two villains, modeled after Gates and Ballmer. Perhaps you may want to lighten up on all the talk about your little kid building another Microsoft or Apple in the basement. The Genre The CGI kid fantasy adventure genre is a Pixardominated space, and as you all know, funded and guided by Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple and now creative master of the IPad/phone/pod/app universe. Perhaps, through a nest of shadow companies, Jobs funded this allegorical satire of Microsoft’s head honchos. I, of course, have no proof or any knowledge of such a super-villainous plot by the Pixar-charmed
Jobs. I also do not know if he wears a warm-up suit all day when he’s at home. I happen to admire Pixar and all their movies. Respectable Me is in the same league, both in the flair of character design and storytelling. You can connect your own conspiratorial dots on this one. However, the producer Christopher Meledandri has been involved with Ice Age and Horton Hears a Who so he’s been around some quality films in this space and could have guided this completely independently of Pixar and Jobs. The Overall Quality Despicable Me delivers everything you want in a kid’s movie: fun and emotion. The gags are a cut above the normal “body functions” crapfest which passes as humor these days. The orphan girls tug at the heart as they remain eternally optimistic about finding a family to call home. The short, gibbering minions steal the movie with their child-like actions and boundless energy. The 3D is put to great use in the action scene and especially in the wonderful cliffspan vignette over the end credits. Yes, like most movies these days, you have to stay through the credits to watch the minions attempt to cross a chasm to the other side. It is 3D glorious and yet so simple in execution.
The visual treats are too many to mention but I have to tip the hat to the idea of disguising the stolen Great Pyramid by simply painting it blue and adding a few fake clouds on the side. There it sits in your back yard, plain as day and yet hidden from view. It’s wonderful and yet just a small joke in the background. Steve Carell nails the voice of Gru, giving him some twisted European accent like something from out of Peter Sellers “Goon Show” characterizations. The directors (Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin) know how to milk even the simplest gag (I said cookie robots, not boogie robots) into a funny extended bit of nonsense sure to delight the young viewers. This is a treat for the whole family, on several levels and intelligent to boot. It is also a rare thing, so if you’re thinking of treating the kids to a few hours of air-conditioned fun, this movie is it. Movie/Market Analysis MarketBOB’s sentiment indicators, the GQS (Genre, Quality, Story) rate Despicable Me an emotional BULL. The movie mood for audiences leaving the theater is Positive, providing great value for your movie dollar. Just remember to lighten up on those lectures on becoming the next Bill Gates, or your kids will become a supervillian bent on stealing that big, shiny round object in the night sky.
Read an excerpt from my latest book: Dig Three Tunnels about personal financial freedom based on the movie The Great Escape. Those brave men set themselves free and you can to with these 10 simple steps from the prison camp to your pocketbook. Buy from Lulu.com, Amazon or OffTheBookshelf.com
Craig Forgrave (MarketBOB)
For all my books and writing projects, drop by my writer site http://www.cforgrave.com/ For the latest analysis of movies and entertainment, go to http://www.marketbob.com/ and read a free excerpt from my book about Movies We Love in Times of Depression on Amazon Kindle. For my take on sibling rivalry and gods falling to earth, read Devil Jazz available from ENC Press and on Scribd.
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