By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
Though he aspires to be the world's most terrible villain, Gru (voice of Steve Carell)—the character at the heart of "Despicable Me" (Universal), an enchanting 3-D animated comedy—is, in reality, only a slightly wicked rogue who ultimately proves to be a softhearted hero.
Steve Carell voices the character of Gru in the animated film "Despicable Me."
With an East European accent somewhat reminiscent of Boris Badenov, the comic heavy of the 1960s television cartoon "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," Gru occupies the kind of darkly gothic house the Munsters of roughly the same TV era might have comfortably called home.
In between his usually inept larger schemes—such as attempts to steal world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower—Gru engages in such petty misdeeds as using a "freeze ray" to immobilize a line of fellow customers so he won't have to wait behind them for service.
Challenged by an upstart rival— a nerdy newcomer among evildoers who calls himself Vector (voice of Jason Segel)—Gru embarks on a project he hopes will establish his credentials as the planet's supreme baddie once and for all. With the help of mad scientist Dr. Nefario (voice of Russell Brand) and an army of comically mumbling undersized minions (think Twinkies come to life and sporting goggles), Gru plots to steal the moon out of the sky, no less.
As part of this nefarious plan, Gru winds up taking three young orphans under his wing: Margo (voice of Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (voice of Dana Gaier) and Agnes (voice of Elsie Fisher). Predictably—though nonetheless enjoyably—his temporary adoption of this trio of cuties has a life-altering effect on the would-be tough guy.
In their feature debut, co-directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin—who also provide voice work for those irrepressible minions (along with Jemaine Clement)—serve up a delightfully humorous conversion tale spun around themes of loyalty and the transformative power of family love.
Timely satire is included in the form of Mr. Perkins (voice of Will Arnett), the bloated, ruthless CEO of the straightforwardly named "Bank of Evil," while Julie Andrews provides the voice of Gru's perpetually grumpy, eternally unimpressed mother.
Catholic viewers will especially appreciate a scene of the little orphans devoutly reciting their bedtime prayers.
Though the gentle proceedings—ably designed to appeal to both children and their seniors—unroll without the inclusion of any genuinely troublesome material, a few effects that might scare the most timid and a touch of mild bathroom humor may raise concerns with some parents.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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