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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Despicable Me

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Steve Carell voices the character of Gru in the animated film "Despicable Me."
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.

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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Cyril and Methodius: Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. 
<p>After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post. </p><p>A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task. </p><p>Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then. </p><p>That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit. </p><p>Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release. </p><p>Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated. </p><p>Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church. </p><p>Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).</p> American Catholic Blog This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.

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