In Despicable Me, The Office icon Steve Carrell plays a supervillain who is far less adept at taking over the world than he would like. That’s somewhat ironic because this hilarious blockbuster is taking over one streaming service at a time: according to FlixPatrol, Despicable Me recently broke the top 10 for Rakuten TV, iTunes, and Netflix. We streamed it on Netflix ourselves, and we were struck by how well this animated classic has held up.
Despicable Me launched Steve Carrell’s most successful franchise, and introduced the world to the Minions.
In Despicable Me, Steve Carrell voices a supervillain named Gru who just can’t seem to pull off the perfect caper despite being surrounded by an army of impish yellow Minions. Eventually, the villain decides to adopt three little girls as part of a plot to steal a shrink ray back from his nemesis, and it starts looking like his dastardly plans are finally going to pay off. But once Gru begins bonding with these precocious girls he has adopted, he realizes that he must choose between being the world’s greatest villain or the world’s greatest dad.
While Steve Carrell is the hilarious beating heart at the center of Despicable Me, he isn’t the only big celebrity lending his vocal magic to this animated classic. Gru’s nemesis Vector is voiced by How I Met Your Mother alumnus Jason Segel, and Siegel’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall costar Russell Brand voices Dr. Nefario, an elderly mad scientist who assists Gru. Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, and Will Arnett fill out a colorful cast that helps to bring this coterie of crazy characters to life.
And those are just the voices behind the bigger parts: Steve Carrell’s former The Office costar Mindy Kaling has a brief but memorable role, as does Eastbound and Down star Danny McBride. 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer also stars in the movie, as does Community’s Ken Jeong. Long story not very short, this is a collection of gifted actors who could probably make reading a phone book look exciting, and with a script this tight, each scene’s a delight.
Thanks to Steve Carrell and the rest of the creative team behind Despicable Me, Illumination became a top tier studio, culminating with this year’s Super Mario Bros. Movie.
One of the more interesting facts about Despicable Me is that it helped put animation studio Illumination Entertainment on the map. Well before Steve Carrell was cast in the film, Illumination founder Chris Meledandri reviewed a pitch from animator Sergio Pablos about centering a film around a villain. Meledandri greenlit the pitch, and the finished film’s success led to Illumination becoming a major animation studio that was most recently responsible for creating the insanely-successful CGI Super Mario Bros. movie.
In addition to the voicework from Steve Carrell and other celebs, the top-notch character design helps set Despicable Me apart from the competition. For example, the most iconic characters in the film are the Minions, and they were designed to be spiritual ken (or at least, spiritual ken enough) to previous pop culture critters like Jawas from Star Wars and Oompa-Loompas from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. These yellow rascals quickly became a hit among fans of all ages, and after headlining their own movie, it’s fair to say they have become the de facto mascot of Illumination Entertainment.
Just how successful was Steve Carrell’s first outing as Gru? Despicable Me had a nice budget of $69 million and pulled in a much nicer profit of $543.2 million. With a profit margin like that, it’s no wonder that this movie would go on to spawn four other films in the same franchise.
Steve Carrell has gone on to lend his voice to five more films in the Despicable Me franchise, and amazingly, each one has been a box office smash.
And that first outing wasn’t simply a commercial hit: it currently has an 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and 83 percent from fans. Critics rightfully pointed out that the film was like a modern successor to Looney Tunes and that Steve Carrell was impeccably cast as someone with the broad comedic skills necessary to bring this madcap madness to a modern generation. Carrell is so good in this role, in fact, that it’s easy to forget how little voicework he had done before knocking this performance out of the park.
Of course, Gru’s a scientist, and he’d tell you that in order to test the hypothesis that everyone loves this movie, you’ll have to run some tests on your own. Fortunately, it’s easy to do that by streaming Despicable Me on Netflix today. Don’t be afraid if you spend the next week jibbering in that strange Minion language, though…that’s a known side effect of being exposed to this CGI powerhouse of a film.