The Pixar children are here. Years of superior film making by Pixar has resulted in talent getting inspired by them, and matching their attention to detail to the T. The new indie production house Illumination Entertainment gets it - this is as Pixar as a non-Pixar film can get. It's fun, it's loopy, and the attention to detail and character is impeccable.
Gru (Steve Carell), is an ambitious but so-far unprofitable super-villain, and constantly looking for that one big hit that will make him notorious. He always faces off against a younger rival Vector (Jason Segel), but as his latest madcap plan begins, he gets sidetracked when 3 sweet orphans enter his life, reminding him of his own childhood and its missed opportunities (watch out for Julie Andrews as Gru's mum).
It's a standard story - that of a low-rung/misunderstood person whose cockles are warmed by children, teaching him the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Which is precisely why the filmmakers deserve an extra round for their ability to sell it so well, with a world populated with outlandish gadgets and very expressive animation.
Everything is created to make a franchise out of, but who can complain when it's so well done? Steve Carell and Jason Segel have this innate knack of unleashing the mirth and menace in their voice, and the directors use that very well. Gru is a well realised and charming character - animated, and voiced with equal enthusiasm.
The rest of the film is as fully-realised as well - the attention to detail to the gadgets and sets is amazing, and the gags come quick and easy. The children, when they arrive, add to the charm offensive, and while this is still a calculated move by the makers, it pays off in spades. Many of the film's gags are successful memes on YouTube, and there's a reason why.
The only thing that detracts is that Gru is far more interesting and well-voiced when he isn't yet fully 'saved' by the children. Once his soul is redeemed, the film and the character become stock caricatures, and the hackneyed lines begin to grate.
Yet, this is a refreshingly creative and genuinely funny film that gets how to do good animation. The voice acting remains aces, and the visual gags are unique and memorable. Recommended with a big dollop of cream and cherries (hiding a stun gun).