The side characters of any animated movie should be just that: side characters. They’re usually the same: typically speak gibberish, look goofy, and exist as nothing more than comic relief. Enter the Minions, a race of single or double-eyed yellow critters who do serve their role in Despicable Me, but overstep their bounds.
It’s not all bad. They are enormously entertaining fodder. At one point, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) sends a trio of them out to pick up a toy. The scene as a whole is a waste of time. It grinds the plot to a halt so their antics can ensue, dressing themselves up with fake mustaches and clothes as if their height and yellow skin aren’t dead giveaways. Apparently they take a cue from the Ninja Turtles.
Anyway, regardless of what the non-official movie critic handbook states, and it would most assuredly state that’s a flaw, the Minions are a goldmine of entertainment value. Let them be and do their thing, whether that’s shooting each other with a rocket launcher, wandering off into space, or fighting for their master’s attention.
See how that works though? Three paragraphs and not a word about a story, which surely deserves some credit for a distinct lack of heroism. Gru is, um, despicable (it works), ruining kids animal balloons and fighting to become the world’s greatest thief when he becomes… out-thiefed?
He decides to steal the moon, but cannot gain access to the shrink ray he needs to complete the task. That’s in the hand of another super-villain Vector (Jason Segel), causing Gru to resort to adoption. The three kids he brings home with him are a ploy, utilizing their adorableness (??) to maximum effectiveness as a distraction.
As you could probably see coming, Gru falls for the kids, taking his eye away from his grand task, and yadda, yadda, yadda, everyone lives happily ever after. For all of its refreshing qualities, from the evilness to the surprisingly dark turns as one of the kids becomes trapped inside an iron maiden, it predictably softens up. It does so with care though, and that’s what counts. The adorable factor here, with the big eyes and floppy animation style given to the young girls, is tremendous. Mingle them with the Minions and a killer teeth, err, dog, and it’s a proper recipe for success.
It’s time to come clean. Reviewing modern animated movies on Blu-ray is a drag. It’s the same thing each and every time, and that’s odd since we’re talking about perfection. One would think the excitement would be off the charts seeing such glistening, sparkling visuals, but it’s just not the case. Seeing them just means rewriting the same stuff in a different way.
So, with that, here we go: Despicable Me is just about perfect. There’s some banding against a few of the skylines, and some aliasing causes some problems on glasses, books, and stairs, but it’s all trivial. You’ll be in far too much awe of the colors, lots and lots of colors, to ever care. This effort is bursting with incredible hues, a dazzling array of pinks, blues, reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. Whites are pure and black levels are exquisite, further aiding in making this image leap from the screen.
Textures are immense. Gru wears a number of different jackets and sweaters, each with a discernible, distinct pattern. Despite being entirely digital, you can make out what type of fabric is intended. Even the jean pattern on the overalls worn by the Minions is crystal clear. Exteriors, including the sharp home of Gru or the city streets lined with brick buildings, are flawless in their definition.
Individual hairs stand out as just that: individual. Every strand is rendered to hi-def flawlessness. Even the dog-thing, with its spiked fur is great. Ground textures, whether that’s grass or the surface of the moon, are spectacular. One of the best sights in the whole movie is from the moon, where Earth sits in the background, clouds and continents perfectly identifiable. Great stuff as always.
For the most part, the 3D presentation plays nice too. Rarely will you find a presentation so bright to the point that the glasses never feel like they are dimming the image. That allows the image itself to pop, because generally speaking, the 3D is somewhat flat. It appears as if the screen is inset and nothing more. The occasional character will poke their characterized nose towards the frame, trying to establish and image that feels deep, but it never finds that mark.
What saves Despicable Me are the highlights. An early, aerial missile fight between villains is a 3D miracle, designed to throw things at the viewer. It works. All of the Minions parade around the screen, and some of the in-movie technology can shine a little too. None of the action fails, and in fact, it raises the quality bar for other animated features. The downside is that so little of Despicable Me is fitted with the right material.
Universal’s DTS-HD track is sufficient, but it’s not the resounding, overwhelming action epic some animation turns out to be. The highlight is the launch of Gru’s rocket at 1:11:00, slamming the subwoofer with some deeply rooted bass, finally unleashing the raw power this track was capable of. Prior moments of notable bass include a shark repeatedly ramming against the glass at 47:40, and a chase scene at 20:45.
The latter is impressive for its stereo work, ships weaving and dodging side-to-side. The surrounds take over any motion, tracking front-to-back as well. Minor moments are scattered about, some ice shattering into the available channels or minions cheering creating an enveloping soundfield. It’s effective because you don’t know its there, simply immersing the listener in the moment.
There’s nothing wrong technically with the mix, everything capably balanced and fidelity firm. Much like the video, it’s all very redundant, only here there’s nothing truly outstanding.
A commentary has co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud joined by the Minions. Two promos, Voices and World of Despicable Me run about 30-minutes without any real weight. Despicable Beats is a short piece on the theme song, while Global Effect looks at how various animation studios worked in tandem.
Some cookie recipes and games are here for the kids. Gru-control is a pop-up feature where the Minions show themselves on screen at random for some antics. The disc has support for BD-Live and D-Box as well.