Who's In It: The voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Jemaine Clement, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Mindy Kaling, Ken Jeong
The Basics: A bald, Euro supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell impersonating Tommy Wiseau), with his sights set on stealing the moon, finds himself in midlife crisis. A younger, well-connected supervillain named Vector (Jason Segel) just upstaged Gru by stealing an Egyptian pyramid and the aging Gru can't get funding from the Evil Bank to finance his own wrongdoing. Meanwhile three adorable orphan girls further complicate Gru's life by threatening to turn his heart soft like a kitten, which would ruin his misanthropy and potentially kill off his career for good. These are the pitfalls of single parenting.
What's The Deal: I hope this movie can emerge from the shadow of Toy Story 3 and find its own audience. Because while it's not as rich an experience as you get from the Pixar people, it's pretty great in its own off-kilter way. Instead of a bad guy coming in to intervene in the hero's story, the bad guy is the hero and delivers charmingly wicked Addams Family-inspired lines like this...
To his new daughters at bedtime: "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite. There are literally thousands of them. And there's probably something in your closet."
To a neighbor who apologizes for dog poop in Gru's yard by telling Gru that dogs go wherever they want to go: "Unless they're dead."
In other words, black-clad parents who take their kids to Bats Day at Disneyland are going to love this.
It's A Wonderful Evil Life: There's a scene in the middle of the movie where the orphans and Minions come to Gru's financial rescue (they're essentially helping him with money he needs for equipment to commit his crime) and it's lifted more or less straight from the final scene in that Jimmy Stewart Christmas film. It's a good example of how the whole movie turns good and bad on its head in a bouncy, playful Bugs Bunny-ish way. Intelligent parents won't mind this because it'll give them a chance to talk to their kids about reality versus fantasy. The rest of you can sit around fretting about how Hollywood corrupts young minds while you turn your children into literalist robots.
Big Fan Of: The little yellow Minions, those verging-on-annoying marketing hooks are actually hilarious supporting characters, a mashup of the acrobat insects from A Bug's Life and the spacemen from Toy Story. I am not a fan, however, of the promotional gimmick where you download an app to your phone that translates the Minions' credits-roll gibberish into English. We're already on an infuriatingly slippery slope with people wantonly using their phones during movies and this is a bad marketing idea for which someone should be punished, preferably with the Fart Gun invention from this very film.
3D Necessity: If you can see it in 3D then do so. It's bright and clean and visually aggressive, so it feels meant to be that way, especially for the moment when they all ride a crazy steep rollercoaster. It actually triggered my amusement park motion sickness for a second.