It's a little crazy to see how much Illumination grew this decade. At the beginning of the decade, they were basically a new studio and now they've grown to be one of the most financially successful animation studios this decade. While some of their films in quality have been a mixed bag for me, I still think they do have the talent and that they can put out a genuinely good animated movie. Case in point, their first film "Despicable Me". It was a little strange rewatching this film given how much the franchise exploded and how many sequels and Minions toys came from it, but I was surprised to find that this film still works well all these years later. It still has plenty of hilarious humor and the charm of the film still works as well. I think this is easily one of Illumination's best films.
Gru (Steve Carrell) is a supervillain destined to pull off the greatest heist in history. After a villain named Vector (Jason Segel) steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru, his assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and his hundreds of Minions (Pierre Coffin) plan to steal the moon to outdo him. Things seem to be going well once they get their hands on the shrink ray necessary to shrink the moon, but when Vector steals the ray, Gru has to figure out how to get it back. He then devises an evil scheme when he adopts three orphan girls named Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) to distract Vector so he can steal the shrink ray back, but over time he starts to grow attached to the girls and begins to start to wonder if being a supervillain is as fun as it's made out to be.
Looking back on this film all these years later, I think the thing that really stands out the most about the movie is easily the comedy. One of the biggest problems with the later films in the series was that the films relied too much on the Minions for comedy even though they're not the funniest part of the movie. The real comedy comes from Gru and the characters he interacts off of, particularly the girls. They easily have a lot of hilarious moments and have lots of charm that make them stand out characters of the movie. Not only that, they don't get annoying either which is sometimes a problem with characters like them in other films. There's a right amount of goofiness and sweetness to make them likable without getting too annoying. I also really found Gru to be a likable protagonist. He's a character you sympathize with a lot as he wants to be liked and yet most people don't want to be around him, including his own mother (Julie Andrews). I also really liked how the story can have both it's funny and tender moments. You really start to feel for Gru and the girls as they start to grow closer together and their charm is ultimately the glue that holds the movie together. I also loved the animation as well due to it's funny slapstick and cartoony nature. The world definitely feels like a very colorful world that's enjoyable to live in and definitely has a sort of cozy environment to it. It really works all these years later. If there is one thing however I do feel doesn't work too well about the movie is the Minions themselves. I think over time their appeal has worn out for me and they don't make me laugh as much as I used to. Not only that, they really don't serve a huge purpose in this movie other than comic relief. Granted they're not as annoying as they would get years later since Illumination didn't know how big they would become later on down the road, but they don't make me laugh quite as much as I did before.
Still though, "Despicable Me" is a funny and likable animated movie all these years later. The story is fun and has some tender moments, the animation is fast and energetic, and the characters are funny and memorable. Say what you want about Illumination now, but I think this film is clear proof that they do have the talent and can make a fun and enjoyable movie. I do hope to see films that are this clever and fun from them in the future, but I guess we'll have to see where they'll go. In the end, I think their first movie still works and will still be fun years later.