Despicable Me Too!

Well, I went to see Despicable Me again today — first time I’ve gone back to see a movie in the theater again since ‘Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. It’s also the first time I’ve seen a movie in both its regular and 3D formats, which made for some interesting comparisons.

Yes, I am going to knit myself a Gru scarf. ;)
I think the thing that gets me most about this movie is how much I personally connect with Gru.

That’s not as weird as it sounds.

Possible spoilers after the cut.

When in flashback they show Gru watching the moon landing, he was depicted at the same age I was in July of 1969. When he looks up at the moon in wonder and longing, I know that look because I’ve had that look. I know exactly what he’s thinking when he looks up. It’s the same thing I’ve thought more times than I can count: “I wanna go!”

Add to that the financial trouble he’s in with his bank, and it’s clear what his motive has been all along. He doesn’t want to run or own the world; he just wants to go Up There. Mad science was only the best route to take in a world that had lost the will to go anymore. If there’s a dark side to his desire to go to the moon, it’s to show his mom that he was right and she was wrong.

Also, notice that the number of his ticket to the girls’ ballet recital was 072069 — 7/20/1969, the day of the Apollo XI landing.

Sure, he’s had enough success to be taken seriously — when you re-watch, check the newspaper headlines framed by his front door, including one declaring him Villain of the Year. But if money and power were his real motive, it’s clear he could’ve had both by now.

The alternative is that he’s an underachiever, and we have enough evidence to see that’s not the case.

So, Gru is a villain, but a gentle kind of villain. He has hordes of minions — and he remembers all their names. His discipline method when Dave fires off a missile during the all-hands meeting is a disappointed look — and it appears meaningful to the Minion. When it looks like his career is over, he seems to be genuinely concerned about them during his “pep talk”.

And even at the outset, he seems concerned about the girls in his own weird way, even before he’s come to have a real emotional attachment to them — can you think of any better advice in a mad scientist’s house than “Don’t touch anything!”?

Meanwhile, the girls have accepted him as is, something his mother never did, and that’s the key to getting inside him. They don’t want to reform him. Gru doesn’t have to be a good guy; just a good dad. This is what makes the movie work: they didn’t opt for the stereotypical ending. Gru is the hero that ‘saved the moon’, but incidentally. He didn’t return the moon to its orbit himself — his priority was retrieving the girls. It’s a deus ex machina ending, but forgivable in context of the real story being told.

Universal has already greenlighted the sequel; I can see a couple ways they can go, as long as none of them involve Gru being an actual, active ‘good guy’. You have revenge motives to play with from Perkins (the Pointy Haired Banker) and his son Victor… er, Vector. You have problem of the money he still owes the bank. Conceivably, you could have Miss Hattie trying to take the girls back since he hasn’t officially re-adopted them (at least not that they’ve shown).

I think the bank angle is the best route to go with for the second movie, and propose calling it ‘Despicable We’ — Margo is organizing the lab, Edith is shadowing Dr. Nefario and learning all the best ways to blow things up, and Agnes really doesn’t need to do much more than be extremely cute (and keep Gru’s dog under control).

Once that’s dealt with, you can have a third movie where the girls set about finding a villainess they can call Mom — call this one ‘Despicable She’.

Or not. The main point is that the whole thing doesn’t work if Gru stops being a villain, although he can be maneuvered into saving the day, like he did in this movie.

Also, I love the Minions, but they need to resist the urge to make the movie about them and not about Gru and the girls.

It’s unfortunate that the Academy has created a cartoon ghetto with the “Best Animated Feature” category, intended not to encourage animated art, but to prevent an animated feature from ever challenging for Best Picture again. From what I’ve heard (I haven’t seen it yet myself), ‘Toy Story 3’ could genuinely contend for Best Picture. Instead, it will doubtless walk away with Best Animated Feature (less than it deserves) and leave ‘Despicable Me’ out in the cold (also less than it deserves).

I’m looking forward to Mastermind later this year, but it’s going to have to be a hell of a good movie to top Despicable Me.

Still, between ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, ‘Shrek Forever After’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Despicable Me’ and presumably ‘Mastermind’, 2010 may come to be The Year of Animated Movies, much like 1939 is (still) The Year of Movies.

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