Also Kevin the Minion. And Phil the Minion. And Bob the Minion, Stuart the Minion, Jerry the Minion, Mark the Minion…
Actually, all the minions were my favorite minion.
Despicable Me is worth seeing just for the minions.
They make the movie.
I don’t just mean that they’re cute and likeable and the source of endless sight gags.
The minions are key to making Gru, the evil genius who is the despicable him of the title, sympathetic as a villain.
It’s a given that the three young orphans Gru “adopts” to help further his plot to steal the moon and prove he is the greatest villain of our time will melt his heart and cause him to change his evil ways. So, wisely, the filmmakers don’t spend much time on showing us Gru’s not such a bad guy after all. The little girls do what we know they’re going to do but they do it by being Gru’s antagonists. As in they antagonize him, deliberately and accidentally, and for at least the first half of the movie the question is when they will bring about his change of heart but how much trouble they will cause him and how much he’ll put up with before the inevitable happens.
The girls are presented as another occupational hazard for a professional villain.
It helps that Margo, Edith, and Agnes have minds and needs and an agenda of their own and they don’t act as if they “know” it’s their job within the story to turn Gru into a good guy. As far as they’re concerned, it’s Gru’s job to do that for himself by taking care of them which he’s required to do because he is the grown-up and they are the children.
It’s only in the movies that children make it their business to be responsible for grown-ups.
But from Gru’s point of view, the girls are simply components in the complicated machinery of his scheme and they’re causing him headaches---not to mention other sorts of aches and pains---by refusing to be managed as components.
In every evil scheme, things will go wrong. A smart villain expects setbacks and is ready to adapt. Frequent returns to the drawing board are a routine part of the job. The girls turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth. They’re getting in the way. And the filmmakers expect us to understand and sympathize with Gru’s frustration.
They’ve got us rooting for Gru’s evil scheme to succeed even as we’re looking forward to his change of heart.
We’re meant to sympathize with Gru just as we’re meant to sympathize with Wile E. Coyote---and as Oliver Mannion pointed out on the way out of the theater Sunday, many of the things that go wrong for Gru along the way as he pursues his schemes are straight out of Looney Tunes.
Of course, we don’t want the coyote to catch and eat the road runner. Well, most of us don’t. But he puts so much effort into it and suffers so much that we can’t help feeling sorry for him.
We don’t feel sorry for Gru in that way. We want him to steal the moon and we feel sorry that he has to go through so much trouble.
That’s because Gru is a professional and a craftsman.
Wile E. Coyote improvises all the time and his various schemes are bought and prefabricated. He expects the genius as ACME to do his work for him. Gru is a thoughtful, careful, hardworking villain. We can’t help feeling he deserves to have his plots succeed.
The point I’m taking too long to make is that Gru truly is despicable. He’s a bad guy. And the filmmakers don’t expect us to overlook that. They want us to like him, but not in spite of the fact that he’s a villain, and not because he’s really a hero on the wrong path. They want us to like him because he is very good at being a villain.
Vector is every bit the evil genius Gru is. But he lacks discipline. Gru’s evil scheming is his vocation. With Vector, it’s an indulgence.
Everything about Vector signals his laziness. His flopping Moe Howard haircut, his fanny pack worn front ways round because it’s too much trouble to have to reach behind, his orange track suit, his boneless slouching, this is a self-indulgent child-man who can’t be bothered. He’s an evil genius because it beats working for a living.
Here, Gru is helped out by the animation. He is an aesthetic anomaly in his own movie. All the other characters are short and rounded, either cuddly or squishy, with oversized heads that cause many of them to look squatty and crumpled as if collapsing under the weight of their own noggins. Gru is drawn evilly, dark and scary, but he’s also tall and taut and his lines are trim. Stylistically, he owes much to Charles Addams and more to Edward Gorey, and although he’s a broad in the shoulders and chest as Bluto, he still has a Gorey character’s fluidity. This is a villain who knows how to move. Tall, strong, and supple, he’s macabrely heroic in his villainosity.
But it’s the minions who sell us on Gru as a secret good guy. They are absolutely devoted to him and giddily happy in their work. On Gru’s birthday he probably gets a thousand mugs with The World’s Best Boss on them and they’re all heartfelt and well-meant and he appreciates each and every one.
Gru may be an evil genius but he’s smart enough to know the value of a good employee.