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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Despicable Me

February 10th, 2011

Despicable Me - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD Double-Pack, Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy, or 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy

When Despicable Me came out last summer, it was seen as a bit of a wildcard, as it was Universal's first foray into the realm of digital animation. It was a risk, but it paid off with $250 million domestically and more than $500 million worldwide. But did it truly earn this success?

The Movie

Despicable Me looks in on the life of a super villain, namely Gru. At the beginning of the film, a different super villain, Vector, steals the pyramids, which prompts a phone call from Gru's Mom to mock him over it. (She's not the nurturing kind.) In order to get back on top, he devising a plan to steal the moon, but as his mentor, Dr. Nefario says, they don't have the money. Worse still, the banker won't lend him the money until after he gets the shrink ray. Fortunately, government facilities where they test shrink rays have poor security. Unfortunately, Vector just as quickly steals it from him. (They had a run in at the bank.)

Even worse, Vector's security is neigh impenetrable. All of Gru's attempts to get through meet with defeat, but he then witnesses the one weakness Vector has. Orphans. Or to be more specific, orphans selling cookies. His plan is to adopt the three orphans: Margo, the oldest and most suspicious of the three; Edith, the tomboy / troublemaker; and Anges, the youngest of the three sisters. Then to equip them with robots disguised as cookies and use those robots to steal back the shrink ray.

But will his plans ultimately work? Or will his adopting of the three girls lead to something more?

I've sure almost everyone reading this will know the answer to the last question. Granted, it's not exactly an unpredictable movie, but it is exceptionally well done. While we know from the start that Gru will learn to love his three adoptive daughters, but the way its done still have emotional depth without feeling cloy or manipulative. It also helps that the film is highly entertaining and full of energy. Gru's failures to enter Vector's lair remind me of Willie Coyote cartoons, for instance. That's very high praise. The jokes avoid an overuse of lowbrow humor and / or pop culture references, which will likely mean the movie will have a much longer shelf life. You'll be able to go back and watch it several years from now and not have to spend half the time trying to remember who so-and-so was. The voice cast is top notch, even if the Gibberish speaking minions tend to steal the show. Perhaps there are one too many montages in the movie and one or two shots that are there merely to show off 3D, but that's not enough to stop me from giving it a very enthusiastic recommendation.

On a side note, really well done 3D should give the movie a sense of depth, not shove things out of the screen at the audience.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the directors, who provide a lot of information on the making of the movie, and the minions, who provide a bit of entertainment. (They are really pushing those minions and I fear that I will be burned out on those guys before the sequel hits theaters.) There are a trio of making of featurettes, including an overview on the world of Despicable Me and the characters, gadgets, etc. that are in it. There are also two shorter ones on the music and the various studios from around the world that helped put the movie together. However, they are a little too short to be truly engaging. Finally, there is a game where you have to guess the right monument for the right location in order to earn the money needed to build your rocket.

That's all that comes on the DVD portion of the Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack. However, I believe there are additional extras on the DVD Double-Pack. (I don't have said Double-Pack, so I have to guess.) The most obvious additional extras are the trio of shorts films, which are cute, if a little insubstantial. There is also a featurette on the impressive voice cast in the movie, as well as recipes for Miss Hattie's cookies.

As for the Blu-ray, it has a Gru-Control picture-in-picture track that has some clips from the other featurettes, but is mostly just the minions goofing around at various times during the movie. Super Silly Funland has a trio of games to play where you can win tokens to buy virtual prizes.

As is usually the case when it comes to digitally animated movies, the audio and the video are flawless. Coming from a purely digital source is such an advantage in this area. This is absolutely reference level material. Plus, it only costs about 20% than the DVD Double-Pack and it comes with exclusive extras. Absolutely worth the upgrade. Meanwhile, the 3D version is only about 20% more than the Blu-ray combo pack, so if you've made the leap to 3D, this should be an easy addition to your collection.

The Verdict

Despicable Me was a surprise hit at the box office, it earn outstanding reviews, plus a couple major nominations. And I can see why. Had there been enough animated movies this year to have five Oscar nominations, this film would have been among the nominees. It's definitely worth picking up. The DVD Double-Pack is a little too expensive compared to the DVD for the limited number of extras you get. On the other hand, the Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy and 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy are very good value, depending on if you've made the leap to 3D or not.

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