Making the Grades
During its history, Hollywood has brought hosts of nefarious villains to the screen—Darth Vader, Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, the White Witch, Count Olaf and Sid the nasty neighbor kid from Toy Story. But now there is Gru (voice of Steve Carell), a wannabe evildoer who picks on little kids and animals. He’s also stolen the Time Square Jumbotron and a couple of miniature versions of famous landmarks.
While his achievements are less than spectacular when compared with other hardcore scoundrels, he plans to establish himself as a real baddie by pulling off a lunar heist with the help of a shrink-ray-gun. Unfortunately, Vector (voice of Jason Segel), a nerdy, high-tech lawbreaker, also wants to steal the moon—and he has the tool and financing to do it.
Attempting to get past the nerd’s state-of-the-art home security system, Gru tries to steal the shrink-ray-gun housed in Vector’s vault. However when he fails to get inside, the mean-hearted criminal comes up with a new idea. Posing as a dentist, he goes to the local orphanage and adopts three children. The heartless matron (voice of Kristen Wiig) at Miss Hatter’s Home for Girls hands the young charges over without even an obligatory home visit. (Some younger viewers may be frightened by Gru’s harsh interactions with the adoptees after he brings them to his house.) Gru then uses Agnes (voice of Elsie Fisher), Margo (voice of Miranda Cosgrove) and Edith (voice of Dana Gaier), to deliver some special "robot" cookies to Vector’s home. The androids disable the security panel, allowing the spindly-legged crook to break in.
But what Gru doesn’t anticipate is the inkling of affection he begins to feel for the tiny trio who treats him with unquestioning kindness. As the day of the big astral theft approaches, Gru is left to decide between achieving his life long goal or attending a dance recital.
After seeing how Gru was treated as a child, it isn’t hard to understand why he turned out to be a little prickly. Yet some parents may find his callous treatment of others, along with the film’s frequent depiction of cartoon violence, to be disturbing for young or sensitive audience members. In one particularly unsettling scene, a child appears to have been impaled by nails. The script also includes a few rude jokes about bodily functions and some cheeky photocopies of a character’s bare posterior.
However there is nothing despicable about the heartwarming change that begins to take place when Gru discovers the unconditional love of his three new daughters. And despite the rather odd makeup of this family, there is plenty to admire about the transformation that puts this villain on the road to reformation.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Despicable Me.
How does the matron at the orphanage treat the girls in her care? Does she behave the same way with other adults? Do these kinds of depictions of social workers influence the way we perceive real people in these professions? How is the portrayal of the banker another example of negative stereotypes?
When Gru struggles to raise funds for his illegal enterprise, what do the children and his minion workers do? Are their actions aiding and abetting crime? What was the intent of their response? What might they have done instead?