I liked this movie.
(Don't you wish you could just write a review with just those words and be completely done?)
I did- a lot. I thought it was funny, cute, and had a heartfelt story while still being believable (believable in the sense that all the changes that happened to the characters seemed genuine, not that the world created was believable- and it didn't have to be). It also KEPT YOUR ATTENTION, something that Pixar sometimes fails to do (I'm sure you've read any of my numerous rants about Up). If Despicable Me was, indeed, Universal Pictures' response to The Incredibles, then I give them a round of applause, because they've certainly captured the moon.
Here's what I liked about it:
1. The backstory. You didn't get a whole lot of backstory on Gru, and you didn't really need any for the overall plot to work. However, the five minutes that we did get to see him as a child captured the entire meaning and motivation behind his character, which was to make his mother proud, which he does, in the end. As I'm sitting here writing about it now, I'm thinking about how well done this element of the film is and I'm speechless. I've written before about how much I don't like forcing nostalgia on kids because they don't and won't get it (Up, anyone?), and here we were able to see Gru as a child struggling without it ever feeling like we were looking back and reminiscing. It was very fast and comedic, which kids can register, while still subtly establishing that he has Mommy issues (which get introduced in the beginning and resolved in the end. Genius.). And they didn't feel the need to include any other history because it wasn't necessary. Maybe this is interpreting it too much, but this part of the movie was incredible well thought out.
2. The minions. I get that they were comic relief of sorts, but their interactions were some of the best moments in the movie. I also loved that they ended up proving crucial to the overall plot (the ticket scene where one of the minions puts it in his pocket) because it's sort of like saying every character in the movie means something. So... not only were they absolutely hilarious, but also interacted with the main characters in a way that was real and touching.
3. The kids. I have to admit that Agnes cracked me up several times, including the when she sang the unicorn song and also when she thought her cheetoh was a caterpillar. I felt that the portrayal of the kids in this movie was just so genuine and honest. They were funny because they did things that kids do, not because they were trying to be funny characters. Very, very well done.
What I didn't like:
The violence. Some of the violence in this movie was reminiscent of old Looney Toons. It was a little bit disturbing to see a bunch of fireworks blasted at Gru even if he does survive, and the overuse of violence as comedy got a little bit weary. The minions punching one another is one thing, but to see characters blown up, flattened, squeezed, crashed, smashed, and rolled over and over with the moon was a sore sight on the eyes for a children's movie. And I'm not even going to go into how upset I was by the juicebox incident. That kind of humor should not be shown to kids. Not at all.
Overall, a good film to go see in the theatres and rent, although I would honestly hold off on taking really young kids.
The Movie Mistress