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Monday, March 12, 2012

Despicable Me

It has been in my experience that for the most part, there is absolutely nobody on this Earth who is one hundred per cent good, or one hundred per cent evil. 

Well, okay, I suppose there are notable exceptions.  Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein...I really am struggling to find an ounce of goodness in any of those men whatsoever.

For the most part, I believe this to be the truth.  I can’t say that I myself am one hundred per cent good, because I know that would be an absolute lie.  I definitely try to be kind to others, and treat others with respect, but sometimes, it’s not easy to do...particularly if there is somebody constantly pushing your buttons.  Mind you, I’m not likely going to push somebody down a flight of stairs, or tamper with the brakes on their car.  I don’t have it in me to be that evil.  But, at the same time, if there is someone who I don’t particularly like for whatever reason, I don’t hold my feelings back.  And, you know, I think most of us who are generally law-abiding citizens who are kind and respectful are capable of having a mean streak.  It’s really all about self-control as far as I’m concerned.

It also works the other way.  Just as mostly good people can possess some unsavoury qualities that could be frowned upon, I also believe that people who are judged as bad can have some good in them.  Why, today’s edition of the Monday Matinee features a man who is exactly that.  By all accounts, he is a self-confessed super-villain who causes all sorts of evil and mayhem in the world, all for the purpose of getting people to fear him.  But, when you peel back the layers of rottenness, you might be surprised to find that he not only has a soft side, but he seems to show it a lot more often than you’d think he would.

I’d like to introduce you to a man named Gru.  He’s got a huge nose, an even larger ego, and a desire to steal things.  His ambition is to be respected as the super-villain he desperately wants to be (even though villainous behaviour and respect aren’t usually synonymous with each other). 

The only problem is that Gru isn’t very good at it.

We learn this by watching the first few minutes of the animated movie “Despicable Me”, the subject of today’s blog.

Released in theatres nationwide in 2D and 3D on July 9, 2010 and directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, “Despicable Me” features the voice talents of Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, and Miranda Cosgrove (who younger readers of this blog might know from the sitcom “iCarly” as well as the song release below).  

The film made over five hundred million dollars worldwide, making it one of the biggest movies of 2010.  Miranda's single did not.  But that's another topic altogether.

Anyway, Gru (Carell) tries his best to be as bad as he could.  With his secret laboratory hidden away in suburbia, Gru plots to steal all of the landmarks of the world.  But, as I stated before, he just isn’t that good at it.  His idea of stealing landmarks like the Eiffel Tower is taking the model version from the famous casino in Las Vegas.  Sure, he has his team of “minions” (little yellow creatures with glasses and blue jumpsuits with limited vocabulary) cheering him on, as well as the technical support of his friend, Dr. Nefario (Brand), even though Nefario is hard of hearing and not really at his prime.

But, when Gru’s plot to steal the Great Pyramid of Giza is foiled after a new villain who goes by the name of Vector (Segel), ends up getting there first, Gru’s pride is shattered. 

But however down Gru was about losing the chance to own an ancient pyramid, he was not defeated yet.  He had a childhood desire to build a spaceship and board it.  Then, armed with a ray gun that had the power to shrink things, he would use the ray on the moon, shrink it to the size of a pebble, and steal the moon.  It was a great plan, and Gru believed in himself enough to know that if given the opportunity.

The problem was that the opportunity required a ton of cash to make happen.  And, poor Gru was as broke as a cheap dinner plate.  To further complicate things, the bank manager of the Bank of Evil (Arnett) refused to give Gru a loan large enough for him to build his spaceship. 

However, if Gru managed to obtain the shrink ray that was another key element of Gru’s original plan, the bank manager told Gru that he may reconsider giving him the loan he wanted.  So, Gru’s next move was to get the shrink ray.

The shrink ray is kept inside of a secret base in the middle of Asia, and Gru and his minions manage to get their hands on the ray without any trouble...

...and then one minute later, Vector arrives on the scene and steals the gun from Gru.

Angered that Vector has bested him once again, Gru does his best to try to infiltrate Vector’s hideout, but cannot find a way to thwart his sophisticated traps.  It seems all is lost.

Well, that is until Gru manages to see that a trio of young girls happens to get inside the front door.  Apparently, they had cookies to sell, and Vector happens to have a sweet tooth.

And the appearance of the young girls gives Gru a rather wicked scheme.  Figuring out rather quickly that the three girls are orphans, Gru did some thinking and came up with a solution.  If he went to the orphanage where the three girls came from, and adopted them as his own, then he could use them to get access to the shrink ray needed for Gru to get the loan from the bank.

On the surface, it sounds like a really crummy thing to do, even for someone like Gru.  But, then again, Gru always wanted to be seen as a super-villain, and certainly using three young girls as a manner to get something that he wanted for himself qualifies as being quite villainous. 

So, Gru files the necessary paperwork to bring home the three girls.  There’s Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Margo (Cosgrove), and at first, Edith and Agnes are excited to finally have a home to call their own.  Margo, though, is sceptical.  She doesn’t really trust Gru at all, and basically sees him as being a rather oafish and self-centered character (which, granted at first that’s exactly what Gru is). 

And Gru quickly realizes that becoming the instant father of three young girls is not as easy as he thought it would be.  As much as Gru wanted to do nothing more than be the #1 super-villain in the whole world, between the ballet classes, and school, and taking care of the basic needs of Margo, Edith, and Agnes are almost an impossibility.  But despite his uneasiness (and general apathy towards becoming a responsible parent), Gru sticks with it.

Why wouldn’t he?  Those girls were the ticket to getting the shrink ray back from Vector.

Needless to say, the girls prove to be a huge help for Gru, as Gru easily manages to steal the shrink ray back from Vector.  The girls are so proud of themselves for being able to help Gru out that they suggest an idea to celebrate.  Since there is an amusement park in town, the girls persuade Gru to take them there for a day of fun.  Gru agrees, thinking that he can now abandon the girls at the park since he had what he wanted.

But then an event takes place at the park that makes Gru rethink his plan.

When Agnes spots a giant unicorn doll available as a prize, she immediately wants it.  And with pleading from Margo and Edith, Gru gives them the money to try to win the prize.  But when it becomes obvious that the scheming game operator has rigged the game to make it impossible to win, it causes Gru to react in a rather uncharacteristic way for him.

I mean, sure, the idea that Gru had a weapon powerful enough to make an entire carnival game blow up can be seen as dangerous and evil.  But the fact that Gru used his power to do something nice for Agnes really was uncharacteristic for Gru.  But, it was in that moment that Gru realized that maybe having the girls made him happier. 

If there was any doubt about Gru’s change of heart regarding his feelings for the girls, it was erased following Gru’s second attempt at getting the loan for his spaceship.  As it turned out, the president of the Bank of Evil wouldn’t have given Gru the money anyways, because we learn a little later on in the film that the president of the bank has a son named Victor Perkins.  But, Gru knows him best under the name of (spoiler alert) Vector!

So, Gru is still without the money necessary to complete his ultimate plan to shrink the moon, and he is very unhappy...

...that is until Margo, Edith, and Agnes do something incredibly nice.  They gather all of the money that they have saved inside their piggy bank to help Gru finance his spaceship project.  This causes Gru to make some sacrifices of his own.  He dismantles part of his lair to help build his spaceship, and newly inspired, he comes up with his foolproof plan to steal the moon.  Gru figures that the best chance he has to make the plan a guaranteed success is to act on the very day that the moon was closest to the Earth. 

The only flaw in his perfect plan was the fact that the girls had a very important ballet recital booked on the SAME EXACT DAY.  Hence the quandary that Gru faced.  Would he continue on with his life-long ambition to steal the moon, with the risk of destroying the trust that he had built with Margo, Edith, and Agnes?  Or would he abandon the very dream that he had since childhood to do the right thing and watch his girls dance on stage?

And when Vector strikes again, hitting Gru where it really hurt, would Gru be able to find a way to stop Vector, while simultaneously being in two places at once?

You’re going to have to watch the movie yourselves to find out the answer.

However, I think I’ve posted enough information in this review of “Despicable Me” to give you a bit of an idea that leads back to my opening paragraph.  Just as it’s impossible for almost everybody to be completely the case of Gru, he showed in many ways that underneath his super-villain exterior beats a heart of pure gold.

Well, okay, maybe not pure gold.  Gold-plated perhaps.

And, I just found out news that a sequel to “Despicable Me” is in the works, slated for a July 2013 release.  So, the story of Gru and his girls continues...

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