Gru (voiced by Carell) is a supervillain who has never quite made it. Despite a series of impressive gadgets created with the help of his sidekick Dr Nefario (Brand), he's never managed that one big stunt that would make his name. This is something his mother (Andrews) constantly reminds him. So when young upstart villain Vector (Segel) steals a pyramid, Gru decides to go for his big dream: kidnapping the moon. But his first step involves adopting three orphan girls (Cosgrove, Gaier and Fisher), and they turn out to be rather distracting.
Combining jagged black comedy with sweet squidginess is never easy, but these filmmakers make it work with a skilful use of sharp characterisations and vocal casting. Despite a total lack of superheroes to provide a counterpoint, Gru is a hilariously ghoulish baddie. And we can see the child inside him, reluctantly trying to avoid coming out to play. While the little girls are brilliantly feisty and fearless even as they're vulnerable and, yes, irresistibly adorable.
Even more irresistible is the crowd of minions who assist Gru in his work; even without intelligible dialog, they're almost painfully endearing (and rather reminiscent of Toy Story's aliens). Adults and children alike will wish they had a gang of them too. And the animators have a lot of fun with them, as well as with eye-catching 3D effects that keep our adrenaline pumping, from a raucous rollercoaster to a rocket to the moon.
Directors Coffin and Renaud maintain an extremely lively tone, with constant visual gags and some rather menacing violence. Although it plays out like a Road Runner cartoon, as neither heat-seeking missiles nor ravenous guard-shark actually harms anyone. This, combined with the formulaic plot structure, removes all tension and suspense from the film. We never doubt for a second where this is heading, so we just sit back and giggle all the way through.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th July 2010
Box Office USA: $251.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $544.5M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Illumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 155 Rotten: 37
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Producer: John Cohen, Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri
Starring: Steve Carell as Gru (voice), Jason Segel as Vector (voice), Russell Brand as Dr. Nefario (voice), Julie Andrews as Gru's Mother (voice), Will Arnett as Mr. Perkins (voice), Kristen Wiig as Miss Hattie (voice), Miranda Cosgrove as Margo (voice), Dana Gaier as Edith (voice), Elsie Kate Fisher as Agnes (voice), Pierre Coffin as Tim the Minion / Bob the Minion / Mark the Minion / Phil the Minion / Stuart the Minion (voice), Chris Renaud as Dave the Minion (voice), Jemaine Clement as Jerry the Minion (voice), Jack McBrayer as Carnival Barker / Tourist Dad (voice), Danny McBride as Fred McDade (voice), Mindy Kaling as Tourist mom (voice), Rob Huebel as Anchorman (voice), Ken Jeong as Talk Show Host (voice)