Despicable Me Mini Review (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the Blu-ray release of the recent animated Steve Carell film
This is yet another title that landed on my doormat a couple of days before the release date, so in order to meet the deadline I've opted for a mini review. We were actually supplied with the Blu-ray 3D release of the film, but unfortunately no one at DVDActive has yet bought into 3D technology so I'm afraid this review will concentrate on the 2D version. If by some miracle I get my hands on 3D kit in the near future I'll update the review, but at this moment in time I don't think that 3D is mature enough to warrant the associated expense of buying a new TV, BD player, and amplifier.
I remember seeing trailers for both Despicable Me and Megamind last year. I instantly gravitated towards the latter, which not only looked more adult, but had a sci-fi theme more in keeping with my sensibilities. When I actually got around to seeing both films I discovered that my first impressions had been way off, as I found Megamind quite pedestrian but really enjoyed Despicable Me. Granted it's definitely skewed younger than some animated features, but it had enough adult themes and jokes to keep this oldie entertained. I also loved the voice acting, particularly the little girl who kept shouting 'It's so fluffy!' and Steve Carell's take on Gru, which sort of reminded me of William Sadler's Reaper from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Watching again on Blu-ray I still found the film very enjoyable, and I even discovered a few visual gags and jokes that I hadn't picked up on the first time around. Granted it's no Toy Story 3, but of the four animated movies I saw last year this was easy the second best.
Universal delivers Despicable Me with a 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer that looks every bit as impressive as you might expect from such a recent animated feature. The image is incredibly colourful, with super-vibrant hues that virtually leap off of the screen at times. It's also nicely detailed, with that slick, glossy look that sets 3D animation apart from standard celluloid or even digital live-action features. I'm not an animation expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I really like the character design and it appears that a lot of attention has been given to even the smallest of background details. On the negative side, well there isn't really anything of significance to report during normal viewing conditions. Even trawling though the screen captures at high magnification didn't reveal anything that couldn't be attributed to artistic intention. This is a pretty amazing transfer that really delivers the goods. It's lamentable that I was unable to view the 3D version of the feature, but if this changes at some point I'll update the review.
The video is complimented by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, and it does a very nice job indeed. Obviously animated movies differ from live action features in so much as each and every sound effect has to be created from scratch, but the sound designers have done a bang up job here. There are plenty of neat effects, from subtle things like the sound of whirring machinery, to the obvious stuff like rocket ships blasting off, and there are many opportunities for these effects to spread their wings, such as Gru chasing Vector in his flying machine. Even so I'd still probably class surround utilisation as good rather than outstanding. Bass provides a punchy accompaniment to the proceedings, while the all-important dialogue is intelligible in all but one or two instances. The film's score is also impressive, offering up a fusion of Heitor Pereira‘s traditional music and urban beats courtesy of Pharrell Williams. The use of leitmotif for the central characters is particularly noteworthy, especially the main ‘Despicable Me’ theme that accompanies Gru and the ‘unicorn theme’ that shows up when Agnes is on screen. Like the video before it the audio track is a real treat.
Universal has assembled a pretty healthy collection of supplemental material for the film's Blu-ray release. First up is a relatively informative audio commentary from directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, followed by the amusingly titled 'Gru-Control', which lets the Minions run riot in a picture-in-picture feature that is aimed squarely at the kids. There are also three entirely new mini-movies starring the Minions, along with a featurette on the vocal talent featured in the movie. Additional featurettes follow, focussing on the film's development, the score, and the international production. There are also cookie recipes, interactive carnival and Rocket Builder games, videogame trailers, pocket BLU (shouldn't that be pocket GRU?), and the usual BD-Live functionality. To be honest a lot of the content is aimed squarely at the younger viewer, especially the PiP mode, but this is to be expected. This doesn't mean that adults can't have any fun with the disc, just that the content tries to cater for the whole family. I still had some fun with the mini games and the new animated shorts are great.
When I originally saw the trailers for Despicable Me and Megamind I wrote the former off, but after seeing both at the cinema I found Despicable Me far more enjoyable. Sure it's formulaic, bordering on utterly predictable, but it's a huge amount of fun, endlessly quotable, and quite touching in places. I really enjoyed watching it again on Blu-ray, thanks in no small part to the fantastic audio-visual qualities of the disc. There's also a pretty decent selection of bonus material that caters for young and old alike, and if you have 3D capability the release will hold an extra dimension for you (excuse the pun). If you're not 3D enabled you might want to opt for the combo release instead of the 3D release, as it includes a DVD and Digital Copy , but this one is a winner regardless of which version you opt for.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable for all
Release Date: 21st February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description 2.0 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 German, DTS 5.1 Icelandic, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Portuguese, DTS 5.1 Spanish, DTS 5.1 Turkish
Subtitles: Arabic, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Icelandic, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish
Extras: Audio Commentary from Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin and the Minions, GRU-Control BonusView, Three Mini-Movies, The World of Despicable Me, The Voices of Despicable Me, Despicable Beats, A Global Effort, Gru’s Rocket Builder Game, Miss Hattie’s Top-Secret Cookie Recipes, Super Silly Fun Land Mini-Games, BD-Live, pocket BLU, 3D Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher,
Genre: Animation, Comedy and Family
Length: 95 minutes
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