Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 6+
Clever, funny, and sweet villain-with-a-heart-of-gold tale.
What 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, oprhanage 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.)
- Families can talk about the fact that this story centers around a "villain" instead of a "hero." Is that typical? How does Gru change over the course of the movie? What happens that affects his attitude?
- How are orphans depicted in the movie? What about orphanages? Do you think that's how orphans must be treated/feel? Name some other famous orphans in movies and books.
- How does the cartoon action in this movie compare to others you've seen? Does this kind of media violence have more or less impact than what's in live-action movies? Why?
The good stuff
Educational value: 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.
Positive messages: 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 and ends up with the family bonds he always wanted.
What to watch for
Violence and 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.
Sex: Not an issue
Language: Mild insults and minor swear words like "suckers," "stupid," "poop," "shoot," "butt," and "loser."
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue