When Pixar produced the first Toy Story in 1995, they must have known that whilst they got in first, there would be a rush of computer generated animated films that would follow in their wake. Some would be good and some would be bad, so the only way they could stand out from the crowd was to retain the hallmark of quality, in much the same way that Walt Disney fashioned his fledgling animation company.
As it came to pass, there have been many computer generated films since 1995. Very few have quality to the standard of Pixar productions, and many leave a bad taste in the mouth (I'm thinking of Bolt and the later Shrek films). But every so often comes a well produced film such as How to Train Your Dragon and Over The Hedge. I'm very happy to add Despicable Me to that short list.
When Super Villain Gru (Steve Carrell) adopts three children to do his evil work for him, he finds his heart being slowly melted by them, but he soon has to make a choice between his evil side, and his new found humanity.
With fairly middling expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Despicable Me, especially the voice acting by Steve Carrell and Russell Brand, neither of whom sound like their normal selves.
Of note is there are three separate Blu-ray releases of the film in Australia; a one disc edition, a three disc edition (with a DVD and a useless digital copy) and a three disc 3D edition (with the standard Blu-ray, a 3D Blu-ray and the DVD).
Despite the ability to now review 3D movies, Universal sent the 1 disc version only.
Finally, Blu-ray fans will be sure to notice the nice Blu-ray joke in the movie. You'll not miss it…
Despicable Me is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with AVC MPEG-4 compression.
I think at this stage we all know what to expect with computer generated films; pretty much perfection. And that's what we get here.
Colours are bright and vibrant and pop off the screen impressively. The encode is sharp and as detailed and revealing as the animators intended.
There are of course no film artifacts (it has never touched film), and I noticed no encoding errors or compression artifacts.
Beautiful. Perfection. Whatever superlative you want to use, this is benchmark stuff.
The main audio track is encoded in lossless DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, at 24 bits.
A worthy companion to a stellar video track, Despicable Me features a rocking audio mix which translates well to the home theatre.
The voice artists have done a great job with their roles and reminds me of a time when you didn't need to have major stars doing voice work. Whilst Steve Carrell and Russell Brand are big names, unless you knew it was them, you wouldn't.
Audio mixers haven't restrained themselves in the LFE department; every vehicle and weapon roars with bass when appropriate.
The soundtrack provided by Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams is appropriate, but a little different than would normally be provided for a CG animated film.
Overall, a pleasing soundtrack and a worthy accompaniment to the stellar video track.
Universal have assembled a decent enough collection of extra features for Despicable Me, some for the adults and some for the kids and all of them for the fans.
First up is the feature length Gru-Control Picture in Picture Video track which is really aimed at a younger audience. Older fans will enjoy for a few minutes, but will quickly tire of the format, and I highly doubt younger audiences will sit through the whole thing ("I just want to watch the film, Dad!") so I'm not really sure why this is here…
The Audio Commentary is provided by Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. It's typical commentary fair and a bit of a slog to get through with Coffins French accent, but it's interesting nonetheless.
The three Mini-movies are certainly the highlight of the extras package. Two of the three focus on the cute yellow minions and their fascination for fruit (which is a good thing for the kids to see) and bombs (not so good), and the final features a visit by the child protection agency to the Gru residence. These are genuinely funny little shorts and kinda what Warner Bros. would do now if they still made Looney Tunes shorts. As a nice touch, these feature all the production values of the film, and are presented in HD with a 5.1 soundtrack. Nice work.
Next up are a few featurettes which are pretty self explanatory; The voices and world of Despicable Me look at the vocal work and design of the film, Despicable Beats takes a behind the scenes look at the 'rapper' laying down some 'sick beats' for the movie, A Global Effort looks at what is involved in turning a French production into a film suitable for all cultures and Miss Hattie's Top Secret Cookie Recipes are easy enough for the kids to make at home.
I'll be honest; I steered clear of the Interactive games section, but the kiddies will no doubt like this for 5 minutes before they get tired of the remote control.
Finally, while the Theatrical Trailer is missing in action, we do have two Videogame trailers. Hmm.