Expert movie buffs will know what I’m talking about: The ongoing series of Despicable Me movies, of which three were already released to great success, with a 4th one in the making. Ok, here we go:
In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences with flowering rose bushes, sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Surrounded by a small army of minions, we discover Gru, planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon. (Yes, the moon!) Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad. The world’s greatest villain has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith and Agnes.
What made this and the 2 following Depicable Me movies so weird and strange but lovely was the fact they differed from the usual Disney Pixar stuff in a kinda uncanny valley way. No, these where no Japanese anime or some independent arthouse trick films but deeply rooted in the western movie system and could’ve easily been cooked up by some or the other Pixar exec as well. But they were a French production, which made them that tiny bit different from the usual animated diet.
Despite the silly plot and over the top spectacle the Despicable movies always have that little extra portion of heart and humanity, maybe that tiny bit of drama that makes them watchable by adult audiences as well as the target audience of pre-teens.
While Gru, the ex-supervillain is adjusting to family life and an attempted honest living in the jam business, a secret Arctic laboratory is stolen. The Anti-Villain League decides it needs an insider’s help and recruits Gru in the investigation. Together with the eccentric AVL agent, Lucy Wilde, Gru concludes that his prime suspect is the presumed dead supervillain, El Macho, whose his teenage son is also making the moves on his eldest daughter, Margo. Seemingly blinded by his overprotectiveness of his children and his growing mutual attraction to Lucy, Gru seems on the wrong track even as his minions are being quietly kidnapped en masse for some malevolent purpose.
This becomes very apparent in the second movie when our anti-hero Gru is paired up with the do-gooder agent Lucy Wilde. All of the grown-ups stuff is handled in a very subtle way, particularly for a loud children’s movie. As well as Gru’s growing fondness for his three step daughters. Maybe the slightly less high IMDb rating comes from that adult aproach? Hard to say. Hubby and me liked the middle film the least in this “trilogy”, which may have other reasons, but we felt empty and unsatisfied after this one.
Our feelings changed when we saw number 3. We didn’t know the IMDb score went further down and went even below the 7 mark but thought the franchise had picked up again in storytelling and raffinesse.
After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother-a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps-one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad.
There isn’t much to say about any of these movies, quite honestly, as they are sorta clever funny and very entertaining things, all three of them. They did something very right which many other much more earnest and expensive films fail at: They entertained two adults from the first second of the first movie to the last second of the third one! And they did so in a graceful, warm, almost fluffy kinda way.
big tiny yellow elephant in the room: The effing minions! Whoever came up with those is a motherloving genius. Having literally nothing to do with the greater Despicable Me story arc, these cuddly yellow blobs are very good vehicles to glue scenes together, keep the kids entertained and are always a hoot with their stupid antics. I also love that they are basically never explained, we never learn about where they are coming from (probably Kinder Surprise eggs), if they have female minions at home which take care of the minion kidz and how Gru found them and recruited so many of them. And the most important question of them all: Wotz up wiff dem one-eyed minions? Are they cleverer than the others, more industrious, and won’t they get lost in the 3D versions of the Despicable franchise? Uff, so many questions.
And that’s another lovely thing about the Despicable movies: Contrary to typical Hollywood movies they don’t feel compelled to explainify everything down to the last detail. Minions are just there, and for the better. 🙂