Universal have finally hit back big in the animation stakes with Despicable Me, a good-humoured, accessible comedy that never quite reaches the classic heights of Pixar’s Up!, or even DreamWorks’ equally brilliant How To Train Your Dragon, yet trundles along wickedly enough to please kids and adults alike.
Aspiring super villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) lives a quiet suburban life in the shadow of his rival Vector (Jason Segal) and, as any true black-heart should, hating children. But when Vector comes into possession of a shrinking ray gun which will facilitate Gru’s long-gestated dream of stealing the moon, the wannabe mastermind is forced to adopt three precocious girl scouts as part of a scheme to gain access to Vector’s lair.
Despicable Me offers up a predictably heartwarming, Scrooge-style transformation for Gru, who’s initially a hybrid of Austin Powers’ nemesis Dr Evil and Eric Von Stroheim, complete with a Bela Lugosi accent. First-time directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud also provide the voices for a race of twittering minions who offer the same amusing vein of humour as the rubber alien toys in the Toy Story franchise.
While Carell is in his element, the other voice casting (Segal, Russell Brand as a henchman, Julie Andrews as Gru’s hard-to-please mother) make little impression and Despicable Me’s life lessons are somewhat pat. But as with Pixar and DreamWorks’ best, it’s the consistent imagination of an parallel universe that makes Despicable Me so engaging – the elaborate, Heath Robinson-style detail of Gru’s world makes any future installments a welcome prospect.
General release from Fri 15 Oct.