Comfort Movies: ‘Despicable Me’ and the Minion Takeover

Screenshot of Agnes from ‘Despicable Me’. Copyright goes to Universal Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

Every time I watch this movie I’m reminded of how much I love it. Which is surprising because I wasn’t interested in it at all when the first trailers were released. All the trailers of Gru doing petty things, like making a child a balloon animal and then popping it, were nothing more than mildly amusing. There wasn’t anything special about what the trailers showed and the animation wasn’t enough to sell it, either. Especially during a time where a lot of animated movies were coming out at once, including some pretty unimpressive duds, this movie didn’t seem like it was going to set itself apart. I’m so happy I caved and decided to watch this in theaters. This movie remains one of the best animated movies I’ve ever seen. It has a heart I never expected, some incredibly written characters, and of course, the Minions. So I’m going to take this post to gush about what made ‘Despicable Me’ so good and the way we’re still seeing it effect pop culture.

‘Despicable Me’:

Characters: Gru was the only character I was entirely aware of when this movie was released. The trailers kept most of the other characters pretty close to the chest, minus the Minions whose adorableness drew many to the movies. And with about no expectations going in, Gru blew me away. The beginning sequence of his nefarious deeds, which I initially thought was kind of cheesy, turned out to be a great introduction to the character. Because he isn’t supposed to be good at being evil. He’s actually very bad at it. He has some cool gadgets and his disillusionment with life in general is pretty hilarious, but as far as evil schemes go he can’t accomplish much aside from petty crimes. He can’t even get a loan from the bank that supports evil schemes. And that’s what makes Gru such an endearing character. He isn’t a great guy in the beginning, but he is a relatable one. And then the girls come in. Margo, Edith, and Agnes might be my favorite characters in this movie. Margo has basically taken over the motherly position in the group because of their lack of parents, causing her to be skeptical of Gru when they are first adopted as well as overly protective of her sisters. Edith is even tougher to get through to. Despite her easy-going personality, she’s also extremely attentive of the rudeness of others and sees no reason to put up with it. Agnes, on the other hand, gets along with everyone. As long as she has a unicorn in her hand she’s happy, and she wants everyone else to be the same. At first Gru doesn’t like the girls and the feeling is mutual (Aside from Agnes, of course). He only needs them to get back at Vector, his perfectly geeky nemesis, but as he begins to bond with them he starts to change. This movie is entirely dependent on the relationship between Gru and the girls and how it gives both a sense of belonging. Gru was never supported by his mother and is abandoned by his community for being too old or not skilled enough. Meanwhile, the girls have been horribly mistreated while in the adoption system. It’s so heartwarming to see all of them gain a new appreciation for life through each other.

The Voice Acting: This movie has a star-studded cast. There can be a few problems with set ups like this. One is the lack of actual voice actors, which is a problem with the movie industry in general. Voice actors are often underpaid, and that’s partly because the things they can do are now limited because Hollywood no longer values their talents for feature films. Instead, they cast celebrities who will more securely bring in an audience. But this isn’t an issue that only this film suffers from, so we’ll move on. The other issue is that some celebrities feel they can phone it in for these types of movies because they are directed at children. That doesn’t happen here. At all. In fact, all of the celebrities in this movie give so much to their roles that you wouldn’t even recognize them if you didn’t know they were in the movie. Steve Carell puts on a charming accent for Gru that fits the character and isn’t super reminiscent of his regular speaking voice. Jason Segal uses a more nasally sound to bring to life the geekiness and pretentiousness of Vector. Russell Brand is completely unrecognizable as Dr. Nefario, so much so that most people didn’t realize that an elderly man didn’t voice this character when the movie was released. Kristen Wiig voices Miss Hattie, and she sounds so different in this role that they brought her back to voice another prominent character, Lucy, because most audiences wouldn’t be able to tell it was the same actress. And perhaps most unrecognizable of all is Julie Andrews. She voices Gru’s mom, the evil woman who amusingly finds joy in making fun of Gru. It’s such an opposite from roles she usually plays, and the rough accent she uses disguises her completely. Who knew Julie Andrews had such a good nefarious laugh? On top of all that there were actual children voicing the younger girls and they sometimes were given the option to ad-lib, making the girls seem like realistic children. I can’t stress enough how good the acting is in this movie.

Minion Takeover:

The Minions get their own section because they were so well done that they transcended the movie itself. Yes, they were adorable, but the Minions also ran the risk of being annoying. Many cute side-kicks can accidentally fall into the annoying category, and with so many Minions who all share a sense of humor that is slapstick comedy, it first seemed like the Minions would stumble into this too. But they didn’t. They weren’t overused to the point that audiences felt they overstayed their welcome. And when the movie did focus on them, they were never obnoxious. They were helpful and even caring towards the main characters. And their brand of comedy was easy to enjoy without stooping to humor that was too childish. It’s easy to see why so many people latched onto them. Their impact was so large that Illumination started an entirely new movie series starring the Minions and made them their mascot. Meanwhile, Universal Studios parks embraced their popularity. ‘Minion Mayhem’ is one of the most advertised attractions in every park and in Tokyo they even have a parade of Minions that lines the park at certain intervals. And of course, how could I write about this without mentioning my bias in ATEEZ, Hongjoong. Hongjoong is such a large fan of the Minions that the other members of the band refer to him as a Minion. Fans have given him so much Minion merchandise at fan meets that you can’t go looking for fan meet photos without finding at least one of Hongjoong with a Minion. Early in their career he even dressed up as a Minion for the group’s trip to Universal Studios in Hollywood. The Minion’s impact its worldwide, and with the amount of people that love them, including celebrities with large fanbases, it’s clear their popularity isn’t slowing down.

‘Despicable Me’ has become an animated classic. It’s quotable, heartfelt, and fun. It’s one of the few movies I could watch every day without getting tired of it. I’m glad it’s received the recognition it deserves. Maybe the second and third movies didn’t quite live up to the excellence of this movie, but in truth it would have been miraculous if they had. This movie feels like lightning in a bottle. It doesn’t happen twice, but the world is grateful it happened at least once.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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