…and a little child shall lead them.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by a neglected child.
Charles Dickens probably would have enjoyed this funny tale of a Scrooge minus Christmas. Gru (won derfully voiced by Steve Carell) fancies himself as the world’s greatest super villain. He lives in a tow ering old house set amidst a lawn of dead grass that harbors a underground large laboratory where a horde of little creatures called Minions happily manufacture whatever he desires. The neighbors who live in more conventional houses just think that he is a bit eccentric, though it seems strange that none of them object to his rocket propelled car that belches flame and smoke.
Gru becomes very upset when someone steals the Great Pyramid, leaving just an inflatable replica in its place. Gru has stolen the Statue of Liberty and the Eifel Tower, but as he confesses, these are the smaller versions from Las Vegas. So, he comes up with the scheme that will keep his reputation as World’s Greatest Villain intact—he will steal the Moon.
All he needs is an invention called The Shrinker, for an obvious reason, and the money to build a spaceship to take him to the moon. However, the head of the Bank of Evil demands that Gru obtain the Shrinker first before he will approve the loan. Gru learns that his rival for the title of Super Villain is a new crook calling himself Vector (Jason Segel). Vector has the Great Pyramid, and when Gru’s assistant Dr. Nefario comes up with the Shrinker, Vector also manages to steal it. How to get it back?
Gru remembers the three orphan girls who had tried to sell him cookies to raise funds for their orphanage. Margo, Edith and Agnes were their names, and all are eligible for adoption. Thus our villain tricks the mean head of the orphanage to send the three to live with him, and—- This is the first animated film that Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has created for Universal Studios. Of course, everyone has been comparing it to Pixar, and the film holds up very well. Even though we know that the cute girls are going to soften the hard heart of Gru, it is great fun watching the process. From a guy who once enjoyed popping the balloon of a little boy and leaving him in tears to a guy who gives in at last not only to reading to three girls a bed time story, even winding up writing one, Gru follows the path trodden by Scrooge, the Grinch, and even Shrek. Some of the scenes of Gru softening up under the pleading eyes of the little orphans are very tender, making adults, as well as children, forget that they are watching a cartoon. The episode at the hall where the tutu-clad girls are in the cast for the ballet “Swan Lake” is very poignant.
The film’s 3-D works very well, never intrusive, and is positively exciting during the roller coaster ride at an amusement park (This sequence took me back almost 50 years to the first Cinerama film!) I should also mention two other voice talents—Russell Brand as Gru’s right hand inventor/assistant Dr. Nefario, and Julie Andrews (amusingly playing against her persona) as the mother who never praised or supported him while growing up—and, of course, whose approval he always is seeking.
Adults who merely send their child to this movie are missing out on a barrel of fun!
1. What is Gru like when we first meet him? How are we shown more than told (by such scenes as his making the folded balloon animal for the little boy)?
2. What are Gru’s apparent “Mommy issues” ? How important is the way in which we are raised? (See Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Prov. 22:6)
3. Compare Gru to Scrooge, the Grinch, or Shrek. What is the “agent of change” in Gru’s case? How does a child often have a softening effect on the hard heart of an adult?
4. What was for you the funniest moment in the film? How does Dr. Nefario’s semi-deafness become a source of humor?
5. What was for you the tenderest moment?