Thursday, 29 October 2015

Despicable Me

When it comes to family friendly CGI movies there are two big players. Pixar and Dreamworks, with no real competition. Oh sure, there are other studios, but none have ever really made it big. Mostly due to being terrible (Try watching anything by Blue Sky and you'll see what I mean).
But in 2010 a new player burst onto the scene, Illumination Entertainment.
And despite seemingly coming out of nowhere, they had a massive hit with Despicable Me.
No, the weird yellow person isn't the main character.
As you may be able to tell, a certain breed of little yellow beings stole the show. These guys are called Minions and if you haven't heard of them, can I come and live under your rock?
These guys are everywhere, from duvets to Tic-Tacs.
But dismissing the cash-cow that are the Minions, does the rest of the movie hold up?
Well, there's only one way to find out. Grab your goggles, jump into your overalls and paint your faces yellow, it's time to get despicable.
The movie starts with the source of all evil- Ancient Egypt!
When will we be free of your tyranny?
Just kidding, it's actually modern Egypt, which is only slightly less evil.
American Tourists! The horror!
The tourists gape at the pyramids and one of them brought a child along, whom they neglect to actually pay attention to as he wanders off.
And this is why you shouldn't get your security from a firm called Securities R Us.
The child, being an idiot, runs straight up the construction in the background and, despite the security telling him not to move, he promptly falls off.
Natural Selection in action.
The child lands on the pyramid but instead of redecorating it he bounces off, since it has in fact been replaced by a balloon replica.
It looks so sad.
After a quick news report which clues us in that it's a supervillain's world, we cut to a close up of our main character, Gru.
This guy.
As he walks along enjoying his morning he encounters a small child who has spilt his ice-cream. The movie takes this opportunity to display the exact kind of personality we're dealing with.
A despicable one, obviously.
After picking up coffee Gru goes home to rest, but gets annoyed when three little girls show up to sell cookies.
As a sidenote, this also works to deter Jehovah's Witnesses.
Gru gets rid of the girls, but is called downstairs by his friend Dr. Nefario to discuss the pyramid news.
On his way down, he assembles his minions.
And then they were promptly forgotten.
As everyone gathers Gru makes an inspiring speech about all of the crimes he's committed and outlines his greatest plan yet. A plan to steal the Moon itself.
"And here is my Johnny Depp impression."
As everyone celebrates we transition to the three girls, who're going home for the night.
An orphanage, because in all movies for children, parents must be dead.
The girls, named Margo, Edith and Agnes (Yeah, because those names are popular choices) are hoping that someone came to adopt them.
And they're adorable. Well, two of them are.
But Miss Hattie is an even worse person than Gru and she belittles the children for not selling enough cookies, threatening to lock them in a box of shame.
Why are slightly pudgy women with bad fashion sense always the most evil people in movies?
The next day Gru goes to his bank to get a loan, since he needs money to build his spaceship.
And there's a joke that no child will understand.
As Gru waits to be seen by the bank manager, he encounters another supervillain by the name of Vector, who tries to impress Gru with his latest invention, a piranha gun.
How threatening.
Gru gets called in for his meeting with the manager, named Mr. Perkins.
So the bank of Evil is an offshoot of Dilbert's company? That makes way to much sense.
Perkins is rather a grumpy fellow and he explains to Gru that the bank has lost faith in him. Sure, he may be one of the greatest villains of all time, but there are newer, younger villains with greater ambition. Such as Vector, who stole the pyramid.
How an idiot such as Vector managed to do this is left unexplained, but considering the poor job security did with the small child, I don't think it was that great an achievement.
Perkins tells Gru that they'll consider his loan if he can produce the shrink ray needed and Gru leaves, giving Vector his regards on the way out.
So Gru travels to the country that's developing the shrink ray. While it's never stated which country has been developing it, I can take a rough guess.
I'm going to go with Germany on this one.
The scientists are testing the shrink ray out on an elephant, and I just plain love his expression.
It's the expression you make when you realise that you didn't read the fine print.
After the test fire, the ceiling gets removed and a Minion drops down with a crane, taking the shrink ray. As Gru flies off in his ship, his roof gets removed and a crane takes the shrink ray.
Aerodynamics shmaerodynaimcs.
They have a mid-air chase, which involves more Missiles than a Tau Broadside.
Do you think he's compensating for something?
Despite the sheer number of weapons Gru managed to fit onto his plane, Vector avoids them all and uses the shrink ray to reduce Gru's ship. Luckily, the jet engine is apparently still powerful enough to maintain flight.
And now it's the moped of air vehicles.
The next day Gru sneaks up to Vector's house to have a look around. And I'm not the most observant of individuals, but I think he might be hiding something.
That lamp post looks highly suspicious.
After a short montage of Gru trying and failing in his reconnaissance, the three girls walk up to the doorbell and are let in when they mention the word cookies.
His favourite type of cookie is Coconutty. There's all the evidence you need that he's evil.
This gives Gru an idea, which he expresses by literally saying the word "Lightbulb" which I think is an excellent touch.
What's his bright idea?
Adopt the girls.
Nothing unusual here.
Gru pretends to be a dentist to persuade Miss Hattie that he's a suitable parent and respectable individual. He also has some Minions pad out his resume, but I think they overdid it since they declare him to have been Knighted and to have earned the Medal of Honour. Which are (Nearly) mutually exclusive accomplishments.
Unlikely, but plausible. As long as the Dentist with the Russian accent has American citizenship and was born in the UK.
Despite this he manages to sweet talk Miss Hattie into letting him adopt the girls. But is it just me, or does something about this sentence seem off to anyone else?
"Ever since my wife passed on my heart is like a tooth. It has a cavity that can only be filled with children."
Apparently it's not just me.
But Gru gets the children, who're very excited to meet him.
Such overwhelming excitement.
Gru takes the girls home and he proves that he really didn't think his plan through very far.
You don't keep the pee pee paper next to a power socket. That's just dangerous.
He also didn't child proof his house very well, as evidenced when Edith walks into the Iron Maiden.
Next time someone asks about the kids movies of 2010, just show them this screenshot with no context.
Luckily it was just her juice box, but it's still a rather morbid moment.
It also causes quite a large plot hole. Gru's obviously not thought his plan out very far, since he doesn't know how to treat children (Which is actually rather neatly explained by some flashbacks to his own childhood later). My question is though, why bother with the children? Dr. Nefario has been shown to be able to create some very impressive robots in a short space of time. And vector's an idiot. Would it have been that difficult to create some robotic Girl Scouts to sneak into Vector's home?
Instead he decided that the world needed 'Boogie robots'.
A little while later Gru is inspecting Nefario's actual cookie robots when he gets interrupted by the girls, who found the entrance to his secret lab.
Despite having been so well hidden.
The girls cause mayhem in Gru's lab, but it's ultimately Agnes (The youngest) who pays the price when Edith (The middle one) points a disintegrator at her.
They should have just called this Child Endangerment: The Movie.
Luckily it was just her unicorn that got disintegrated, rather than her. This makes her cry until Gru agrees to get her a new one, sending three Minions out to the supermarket.
And they're as inconspicuous as ninjas.
The later prequel makes this entire joke into a plothole, since it's unlikely that the public would forget about the race of yellow people who temporarily ruled England.
But they hadn't planned that movie when they made this one. Back when this movie was made the Minions were supposedly mutated corn.
But anyway, they have some goofy adventures in a supermarket.
Again, show this to someone without context.
Later on Gru puts the girls to bed and while they don't appreciate it, I personally think that they have the best bunk-beds ever.
So Gru set them up IN the bombs? Eh? Eh?
Since Gru is an absolutely heartless human being, he refuses to read Agnes a bedtime story. But luckily for her the Minions have returned with a new unicorn toy.
He looks so proud of himself.
The next morning Gru takes the girls to Vector's to deliver his cookies, but the girls have other plans. They have a ballet rehearsal to go to first. Gru puts his foot down.
As an Uncle, I know exactly what Gru's going through.
Agnes asks him to attend their ballet recital and he's pretty much given up by this point, so he agrees.
Yep, I've been through all of this too.
After rehearsal Gru finally gets to advance his evil plan to steal back the shrink ray that he stole. 
Surely it would have been simpler to return to the military research place and steal the shrink ray plans? Seriously, it's not like scientists burn the blueprints immediately after making the prototypes.
But anyway the girls deliver Vector's cookie order and once again, something about the scene just seems off, especially when vector starts bragging to the girls about how many cookies he's bought.
I know that Vector is supposed to have issues about needing approval from literally anybody, but this is still incredibly creepy.
While the girls distract Vector Gru activates the cookie robots, which sneak to his vault and laser-beam a hole into the wall for Gru to sneak through.
Still more intimidating than Christian Bale's Batman.
Gru grabs the shrink ray but apparently Nefario made a mistake when programming the cookie robots since they seal the hole up behind them and Gru didn't think to bring any spare lasers along.
So instead he has to sneak out.
And it goes without a hitch.
Of note is the fact that Vector's living room is situated on top of his shark tank.
Dude would have led a much happier life at a sea life centre.
Gru manages to escape Vector's notice, mostly due to Vector's aforementioned stupidity.
He regroups outside and loads the shrink ray into his car, to the confusion of the girls.
On the way home they pass a place called 'Super Silly Funland' and the girls bug Gru until he agrees to take them. He initially plans to abandon them, but he gets roped into riding the rollercoaster due to health and safety.
Stupid health and safety laws, preventing people from abandoning children at amusement parks.
What kind of a monster doesn't enjoy rollercoasters?
The girls run around the park and enjoy themselves, with Gru being dragged along. Agnes spots a giant fluffy unicorn toy at a game booth, so Gru tries to buy it. Of course it's not available for purchase, they have to win it by knocking over a tiny alien stand.
This game looks like a lot of fun. As long as you're not epileptic.
Eventually Agnes scores a direct hit but the alien doesn't fall over, so the guy refuses to hand over the unicorn.
So Gru takes his turn.
As they say, all's fair in love, war and fairground games.
To be fair, I'm not entirely sure whether Gru got a direct hit or not.
If it's caught in the blast radius, it's a hit.
This marks the turning point in Gru's character as he starts to have fun and he begins to genuinely care about the girls.
Nefario does not look impressed.
Nefario reminds Gru about the whole evil plan thing and Gru arranges a chat with Mr Perkins, the bank manager. Despite having managed to get the shrink ray Perkins still isn't impressed and refuses to give Gru the money, although I don't think the girls helped much.
The most vital part of any evil plan.
Perkins agrees that Gru's plan is amazing, with the exception being that he doesn't think Gru should be a part of it. This leads Gru into an extended flashback sequence where, as a child, he became obsessed with becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon. Sadly his mother wasn't very invested in her son's dreams and responded to everything with an uninterested 'Meh', even when he made a working rocket.
And now we know where Gru got his amazing parenting skills from.
After Perkins hangs up, Gru trudges downstairs and gathers the Minions. In what is quite possibly the saddest scene in the movie, Gru calmly explains that with the bank refusing to loan him any more money, he can't afford to keep them on. He advises them to update their resumes and prepare to look for new jobs.
Yes, we're now sad that the supervillain can no longer commit crimes.
Just as everyone chokes back their tears, Agnes hands Gru her piggy bank. The Minions follow suit, offering up every dollar they have. nd as he looks around Gru realises that he doesn't need the bank, he can do this without them and prove them wrong. Together with the Minions they gather all of their stuff and start work.
Presumably they sell the Crown Jewels back to England.
And so, the twelve days start to fly by as Gru, Nefario and the Minions build the rocket. Gru also begins to take an interest in the girl's hobbies, willingly spending time with them and forgiving them minor transgressions, such as accidentally dyeing his spacesuit pink.
Pink is a very flattering colour.
However, as Gru spends more time with the girls he begins to neglect the plan, which Nefario doesn't approve of.
Why would he place the toolbox so far away?
Nefario advises Gru to get rid of the girls and soon, or else he'll do it. When the time comes to steal the moon Nefario sticks to his word and he calls Miss Hattie, explaining about Gru having lied to her.
I'm beginning to think that this is her only expression.
This is yet another tearful scene as Gru hands back the girls, but can't say anything about why.
But business calls and the next day Gru gets in the rocket and prepares the countdown.
I told you pink was slimming.
As he blasts off Vector shows up, having been told to retrieve the shrink ray by his father, Mr Perkins.
Just another day in the neighbourhood.
Vector manages to attach himself to Gru's rocket, but Gru manages to fend him off with relative ease.
On the bright side his sweat now smells minty fresh.
With Vector out of the way Gru leaves the atmosphere and reaches the moon. With no-one to stop him, he completes his plan and steals the moon.
While the idea of a shrink ray is really cool, I'm more impressed by the batteries. Seriously, what kind of power output does this thing have?
As Gru grabs the moon in his hand he notices the ticket to the ballet recital floating past. Looking at his watch he notices that he could still make it, so he pilots his rocket ship and parks it outside the studio.
I'm amazed that he found a parking spot at that time of day.
But as Gru rushes in he finds that he's late. Very late. So late that the janitor is tidying up the chairs. One of which has a note for Gru, informing him that the girls have been kidnapped by Vector.
Under any other circumstances this note would be ridiculous.
Gru rushes to Vector's fortress and hands over the moon, but Vector goes back on his word and decides to keep the girls (Hey, remember when I called him creepy? Yeah, that was an understatement.)
Vector tries to kill Gru with missiles and a shark, but Gru is angry, and you wouldn't like Gru when he's angry.
Jumping the shark? Pffft, try punching one in the schnozz.
Vector gets a little scared and runs off, which is pretty understandable. The top of his fortress detaches and begins to fly away, but Gru runs up the pyramid and catches hold of it. But thanks to Vector's love of sleek aesthetics Gru can't find anything to hold on to and starts slipping, only to be caught by his plane, piloted by Nefario.
And he brought some friends.
Nefario was coming to warn Gru that the shrink ray isn't permanent and with its' mass the moon will regrow very quickly.
Like right now, in fact.
To be honest I think Vector's more tacky than evil.
The moon expands and breaks the glass the girls where held in and they quickly decide to exit. As Nefario keeps the plane steady Gru clambers out onto the wing to catch the girls and, with the help of some Minions, he manages to catch Agnes and Edith perfectly safely, But Margo's a bit more nervous.
Dang, those white girls can jump.
Margo is a bit more nervous, since Gru handed them back, but he reassures her that it was the worst decision ever and that he'll catch her and never let her go.
But, just as she jumps, vector grabs her.
No amount of context will ever make this screenshot not creepy.
Luckily the moon has regained enough size to start rolling about and it smacks Vector in the back, knocking both him and Margo off the ship. Gru dives for Margo, catching her mid-air, he himself caught by the Minions, who've made a chain from their bodies.
Minions, saving the day since the very first movie.
Inside Vector's ship he's managed to clamber back on board, but the moon smacks into him and also knocks the controls, steering his craft straight up.
And somehow apparently puts the moon back into the exact same orbit that it was in previously.
Seems legit.
And so, the moon is returned, the girls are back with Gru and even his mother approves of the situation.
And Gru starts his exciting new career writing children's storybooks. Apparently.
So how did the movie hold up? And were the Minions really as funny as we all remember them to be?
The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.
Sure, the movie has some plotholes, big ones, but they're easily forgiven due to everything else being perfect. The characterisations are strong, the action is strong and the humour is spot on.
But I think the main secret behind the success of this series over Illumination Studio's other works is that it essentially feels like a Looney Tunes cartoon with supervillains. The plots are just as insane and characters routinely survive similar injuries.
The most telling aspect though are the failure montages.
The movie could have easily shown Gru failing to get into Vector's fortress twice and called it a day, but instead they montaged about twelve clips in quick succession.

And as for the Minions? Turns out you can't separate them from the movie. They're as integral as Gru or Margo. Which is not a bad thing. So many movies treat their comic relief as tacked-on extras which you can cut out without affecting the plot.

And next week (Hopefully) we'll look at the sequel, which decides that what Gru needs is a love life.

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