Film Review: Despicable Me

CARTOON JOY: Despicable Me is out now.
CARTOON JOY: Despicable Me is out now.

The sort of animation used in Despicable Me  perfected by Pixar, and used in dozens of movies over the past few years  is a gift to film-makers. It manages to be so realistic at times that you can forget it isn't real.

Then it can perform utter fantastical magic, from masterful sweeps across a continent to the closest flicker of an eyelash  it can do it all, and it does. Despicable Me is not from the Pixar studio but is nonetheless of the more enchanting movies in this genre.

The plot's not outstandingly original  the evil Gru needs to defeat his nemesis Vector; they're both out to capture the moon. Vector's Achilles' heel is his sweet tooth, so Gru adopts three little orphan girls, whom he meets when they're sent out selling cookies by the nasty matron of their orphanage, with the intention of using them to infiltrate Vector's lair.

But it's not the plot that this movie stands and falls on  it's the characterisation.

Put great big Gru with his Mr Burns nose next to the three little girls and what you have is heart-warming charm.

It's at this point the movie takes off. The three  girls  mother-hen resourceful Margo, middle child and engaging scruff Edith, and little Agnes with her big brown eyes  are adorable. Indeed, they steal the film.  The relationship that grows between them and their captor is  inevitably  one of love. But there's no sentimentality here.

Every character feels fully realised, from Gru's rival villain Vector (interesting how first they let geeks be heroes  we've now moved on to geeks as villains), to Gru's mother (voiced by Julie Andrews in a wonderful piece of ironic casting), to the simperingly evil Matron.

There's plenty in this movie for any grown-up who can snatch a nearby child as an excuse. The jokes are subtle and just glimpsed  the sign above the Bank of Evil's door, for example: ''Formerly Lehman Brothers''; the doll's head in Gru's bed a passing nod to The Godfather.

But beyond this there are the smaller references  the repetitive banality and lame verse of some children's books, and what happens to Gru's space suit when it's inadvertently put in the wash with the girls' pink tutus. 

The roller-coaster ride  on which Gru is forced to accompany the girls, who aren't allowed on without an adult  was tremendous without the benefit of the 3D, but I'd go back to see it again in 3-D. As, apparently, I should the final credits  why on earth do people leave before they're finished? 

A warm-hearted, unsentimental, funny movie in which goodnight kisses and bedtime stories are greater rewards than stealing the moon. Even if you can't find a child to borrow, do go.

Despicable Me
Directors:Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand
Rated: PG
Time: 95 minutes
Trailer: Flicks.co.nz

* What did you think of Despicable Me? Post your comments below.

The Dominion Post