Despite the horrific relevance Despicable Me spawned, the radioactive animated comedy that somehow stormed through with such force has rewarding bits and pieces. Beyond the action figures and awful boomer posts that have these yellow servant freaks alongside the “live, laugh, love” mentality is a strong animated feature that, for better or worse, has thrived on originality. Originality, good or bad, is still unique. Despicable Me is unique. Not just for its characters and process of comedy but also through how it achieves it, its storyline and the nonsensical nature of characters that have been stretched far, far beyond what they were ever meant and made for.
Chilling it may be to reserve space in the brain for Despicable Me, those that do have nostalgia for it, the generation that was just shy of seeing Shark Tale in cinemas, are going to find a little soft spot for this. Steve Carell marks for a character that would likely work better had he not been overshadowed by gibberish-speaking cretins. Stealing the moon takes a backseat to the drama that ensues over a man following his passions and career and failing to discover himself along the way. Every now and then life throws a curveball that makes it far more appealing to follow even if it is a struggle at first, and Despicable Me makes for a nicely-rounded experience in that avenue.
Where it works best is in the surprising undercurrent of ageism, an older villain proving he has it in him to compete with those younger and more skilled than him. Ability is not defined by experience; some are natural and some need decades to get themselves together. Gru (Carell) would be a depiction of that had it not been for those slapstick freaks that surround and eventually overtake the box office value. With films making enough to fund the founding of small countries, Illumination Studios bagged themselves a despicable winner, and it is hard to chastise them for that. With Jason Segal and Julie Andrews providing some solid supporting work, it doesn’t seem all that surprising that Despicable Me is fun and filled with talent. Family is more important than a career, but realising that is far harder when you’re not trying to steal the moon with some yellow Funko Pop characters.
There are jokes within Despicable Me that have disturbingly broad and engaging humour to them. Throwaway jokes about Lehman Brothers that feel strangely highbrow for a film where the opening joke is a slapstick pratfall bounce off Pyramids of Egypt. At its core, there is a family drama and a cute message that pairs villains without hearts with those that do. As much a generic message that may be, it is handled well with the talented cast scattered throughout this. Despicable Me is as much about peddling merchandise as it is about the vaguely heartfelt sincerity at the core of it all. Carell and company do well to remind audiences of that as they’re blasted with some nice slapstick and comfortable storylines. Despite that, Despicable Me fails to understand the issues of adopted children funding organised crime, as one scene points out that they’re clearly ready to hand over piggy banks to prestige criminals at the drop of a hat. Fantastic.