The story is remarkably straightforward, with barely half a dozen characters, no subplots to speak of, no meta-narratives or endless riffs on pop culture. The ostensibly villainous hero might disguise the movie’s nature, but underneath that, Despicable Me is retelling the simplest of fables: It is a tale about the power of love to make us better people.
Such fables can come across as naive. As one who once wrote an essay lambasting the message of the classic Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love,” I know that well (and, for the record, I stand by that essay). But I think the slickly animated Despicable Me manages to avoid insufferable rosiness. The details in the story’s arc feel specific and true, and the protagonist’s incremental transformation feels earned in its own fairy-tale sort of way.