Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Despicable Me Blu-ray Review

This has been a great year for animated movies and Despicable Me continues that tradition with it’s unusual character of Gru who is voiced brilliantly by Steve Carrell and who seems to be a blend of Dr. Evil, Looney Tunes, and the Addams Family.  Aided by a multitude of not so bright yellow minions, Gru wants to be the biggest villain in the world.  His only obstacle is a young upstart named Vector (Jason Segal) who has the same goal. The movie did exceptionally well considering that it’s budget was $69 million and it made over $500 million world-wide.  It was well received with 82% of professional critics gave it a positive review.

Film ( 4 out of 5 stars)

Despicable Me is a fun blend of spy vs. spy hi-jinks along with the expected cuteness that comes from the little girls.  Steve Carrell’s Gru is a malcontent who delights in all things macabre and he goes out of his way to share is misanthropic ways with the rest of society.  He pops little kid’s balloons, steals high profile items like the jumbo-tron from Times Square (along with a nice plug for NBC), and his house is the only one on the block with dead grass and painted black.

We quickly learn that Gru’s behavior is due to the lack of love and attention he received from his mother (we never see his father).  Julie Andrews plays Gru’s mother and part of the charm of the movie is the casting of one of the sweetest and most cherished actresses of our time to play Gru’s nasty and indifferent mother.  No matter how hard he tried to impress her, Gru always received an indifferent shrug from his mother even when he built a working rocket in their back yard.

Gru has long dreamed of being an astronaut and going to the moon, and that dream is re-awakened by the news that a new super-villain has stolen the pyramid at Giza.  Determined not to be upstaged by the newcomer, Gru goes to the Bank of Evil to request a loan from Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett) so he can fund his plan to steal the moon.  In the waiting room of the bank he encounters a young man who appears to be a wannabe villain and greatly annoys Gru with his lame weapons.  Gru doesn’t realize that the young man is actually Vector (Jason Segal), the person responsible for the pyramid theft until later.

Soon enough, the two begin to battle over a shrink ray as both are attempting to fulfill Gru’s plan to steal the moon.  Eventually, Vector manages to steal the shrink ray from Gru and hides it in his well guarded fortress that Gru cannot penetrate despite all of his efforts.  The only people that seem to get past Vector’s defenses are a trio of young girls who are selling cookies door to door.  Gru quickly realizes that the girls are his ticket inside and decides to adopt them in order so he can send them to infiltrate Vector’s fortress.

Between the girls, his minions, and his personal inventor Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), Gru has the means, the weapons, and the will to carry out his evil plans.  The only problem is that caring for the girls begins to change his outlook on life and Gru suddenly needs to decide what’s more important to him – the girls or his plans to be the biggest villain in the world.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks amazing.  I always look forward to these CGI animated movies because they always look incredible on Blu-ray and this one is no different.  Colors are vivid, detail is impressive for even the smallest little details (check out Gru’’s Blu-ray replacement logo called Gru-ray), and the textures and black levels are excellent.  There’s a lot to love in this transfer and I especially liked the detailing on his flying tank/car and the missiles with their gloriously vivid explosions.  There’s a lot of Looney Tunes/Wile E. Coyote  humor in this that I loved.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround track is very impressive as well.  There is a lot of dynamic panning across the channels and I especially enjoyed the powerful  LFE channel’s continual use for the multitude of rockets, explosions, sharks, and jets.  The satellite speakers get plenty of action especially at the amusement park and any scene with the hundreds of minions.  Dialogue is crystal clear and that and the music are never drowned out by the explosive effects that permeate this movie.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars)

These are all pretty typical extras and there’s nothing that really stands out as they are mostly EPK quality but they are all in HD.
  • Audio Commentary: Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin discuss the movie with some minions. The minions get old real quick in this too.  I liked them well enough in the movie but I really wish they had been left out of this commentary.
  • Gru-Control -  This minion-hosted Picture-in-Picture track is strictly for little kids and it should have been the only track to feature the minions.
  • Despicable Me Mini-Movies -  Three all-new animated shorts starring the Minions (“Orientation Day,” “Home Makeover” and “Banana”) They are cute but don’t expect any of the main actors to participate since this is minion and orphan dominated.
  • The Voices of Despicable Me – Meet the voice actors from the movie in this clip. The best part is watching Julie Andrews try to be mean.
  • The World of Despicable Me – A look into the making of the film.
  • Despicable Beats – A short bit with  composer Pharrell Williams in the studio.
  • A Global Effort – The movie was made from a lot of different areas of the world and the directors discuss their international production teams.
  • Miss Hattie’s Top Secret Cookie Recipes – Five different cookie recipes which I have not attempted to make yet.
  • Gru’s Rocket Builder -  A game where you fight Vector and build Gru’s rocket.
  • Super Silly Fun Land – Three mini-games (“Feed the Creatures”, “Tin Can Alley” and “Freeze the Minions” from the amusement park from the movie.
  • Despicable Me Videogame Trailers – Two previews of the video-game.
  • Pocket Blu Mobile Features – You need to have the app from the Apple Store to use this.
  • BD-Live

Final Thoughts (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I really liked the Mad Magazine Spy vs. Spy bits of the movie (think of Gru as the black hat spy) and the constant tech battles between Gru and Vector.  The whole orphan kids storyline was predictable but I still enjoyed it.  Kids (including mine) will love the little yellow minions who provide a lot of slapstick comedy to an already funny movie.

There’s also a lot of nice jokes for adults too such as the subscript to the Bank of Evil’s sign that says, “Formerly Lehman Brothers,” or the line where one of the young girls says, “When we got adopted by a bald guy, I thought this would be more like Annie.”  I could have taken less minion screen time but my son did love them so that’s probably why they are present so much.  In any case, the movie is a lot of fun and it’s one that the whole family can enjoy which is getting rare these days.

Order your copy today!


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