Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud | 91 mins | TV | 1.85:1 | USA / English | U / PG
A venture into the increasingly-popular CG family film market from Universal, Despicable Me is about a supervillain who comes to question his evil ways. It was released the same year as the similarly-themed Megamind from Dreamworks. It cost nearly half as much ($69m vs $130m) but made nearly $100m more worldwide. It’s getting a sequel; Megamind isn’t. All of which is a shame, because I really don’t think it’s as good.
The thing is, Megamind embraces its genre: it’s a superhero movie, playing on familiar tropes and stories from that incredibly popular genre. Despicable Me is an animated comedy about family and responsibility and that kind of thing, which happens to feature a supervillain as its hero. It’s very cartoony, it’s kind of silly; that can work, and some of it does here, but it doesn’t pay off the concept in the way Megamind does, for me. It has good bits, rather than being a good whole.
And there are plenty of bits that flat-out don’t work. There are three little girls, all of them stereotypes, but the “cute littlest one” feels like a direct rip from Monsters, Inc.; there are scenes during the end credits which are blatant 3D exploitation, which makes them a tad irritating in 2D; the action-sequence climax somehow doesn’t feel earned, unlike it does in other comedies like Hot Fuzz, Super, or even Megamind.
The film’s country is officially listed as USA because it’s made with American money, but it feels more like a French production (albeit dubbed with US voices). Look at those directors’ names (though only Coffin is French — Renaud is actually American); it was made entirely in a French studio (Mac Guff in Paris); and it has a kind of feel that doesn’t seem like it came from a US studio. So while technically, yes, it’s American, I don’t think the French side should be wholly ignored. I’m not saying it makes it bad, but perhaps it lessens the apparent superhero feel — that’s a very American genre, after all.
Despicable Me seems to have come out as a surprise hit. I imagine no one saw it coming because it wasn’t from Pixar or Dreamworks, and perhaps that sort of inverse-hype led to good word of mouth that led to good box office. Personally, I didn’t care for it.