A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids learn that even so-called "evil" people are still human beings who long to be recognized and loved. Gru shows that not all "evil" people are unredeemable.
Although ultimately all ends well and Gru and the girls form a happy family and learn that even "bad guys" can have a change of heart, some themes/lines in the movie could be upsetting for families with adopted children. Gru initially adopts the kids (in a very easy manner) for selfish reasons, and then he actually returns them to the orphanage. And Miss Hattie says some intentionally hurtful things to the the girls (like "You're never going to be adopted. You know that, don't you?") and portrays orphanage directors as cold-hearted and unfeeling. She puts the girls in a "Box of Shame" as punishment and forces kids to do manual labor. Some crude humor, as when a minion photocopies his rear end, and some butt-shaking dance moves.
Positive Role Models
The girls are strong role models amidst all the villains. They're sweet, helpful, and generous, and they take care of and comfort each other, even when other adults can't step into care-giving roles. Gru, though a villain, changes for the better, learns compassion, and ends up with the family bonds he always wanted.
Violence & Scariness
All of the violence is cartoonish and doesn't feel realistic -- though there are lots of jokes and gags about super weapons and crime, as well as one potentially upsetting scene in which a little girl is put in a "nail box" and a squished juice box briefly implies blood (but no one is hurt). The Minions "communicate" with each other through slapstick moves like punches and shoves. There's a Bank of Evil that bankrolls villains' high-concept crimes -- like stealing the wonders of the world (or, in Gru's case, the moon). Several explosions and gun violence that never quite kills anyone but does injure folks and sends a couple of characters into orbit.
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Mild insults and minor swear words like "suckers," "stupid," "poop," "shoot," "butt," and "loser."
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Products & Purchases
No actual products within the film, but tons of off-line marketing/licensing tie-ins, from books and apps to a wide variety of toys, clothes, home decor, and much more.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Despicable Me centers around a supervillain (voiced by Steve Carell) who adopts three girls for the sole purpose of infiltrating his nemesis' house. Yes, you can expect mild insults like "stupid" and "poop" and a lot of action sequences involving high-tech weapons that blast things to smithereens, as well as some scenes that imply injury -- although no one is ever killed or seriously injured. But the most potentially disturbing aspect of the movie is the way that adoption is depicted -- at least at first. Families with adopted children may feel extra-sensitive about the way that orphans, orphanage directors, and the entire adoption process is handled. It's all played for laughs, yes, but some of it feels a little grim. Still, the movie's overall message is that even someone considered "evil" can have a change of heart, and that's a good lesson, considering that most movies portray good and evil as absolutes. (Note: The movie is being shown in 3-D in some theaters, which could make certain portions more intense for young viewers.) To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Carell as Gru may be the draw for this movie, and he does a wonderful job -- as always -- with his voice acting; but it's the girls who are the most impressive. They know exactly how to convey hurt, disappointment, joy, and wonder -- not an easy task for young actors. Segel's Vector is that fabulous combination of super nerdy and super arrogant, exactly the sort of villain (and person) who would rankle an old-school villain like Gru. It's easy to root for Gru when his nemesis is such a jerk. The movie also features a wonderfully catchy and unique soundtrack by hip-hop performer/producer Pharrell Williams, and, to its credit, the 3-D is actually enjoyable, as opposed to irritating. Will Gru rank among the greatest villains of all time? No, because in the end, he's actually got a heart -- and a large one at that.
The best movie villains gleefully chew up the scenery, either because they're so creepily eeeevil (Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Voldemort), or because they're larger than life (the Terminator, Cruella de Vil, the Wicked Witch of the West). So it's a unique twist to see an animated movie that focuses on the villain. He doesn't turn hero overnight, but he's not a one-dimensional tyrant, either. He's got mommy issues (his mom, played by Julie Andrews, is the stereotypically overlycritical mother who's never pleased with her son's accomplishments), he's older and not as "bankable" as he used to be, and he really needs a buzzed-about scheme to go his way. Enter the three little orphans, the youngest of whom (Agnes) is so irresistably adorable she's like a human Puss 'N Boots.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.