There’s this thing about spending time with one’s grandchildren: I learn to let go of my ordinary likes and dislikes in favor of their likes. For instance, I don’t ordinarily enjoy cartoons or animated films. I read cartoons (mostly of the editorial variety). I just don’t watch them. But several years ago (2007), when one of my granddaughters was enchanted by Ratatouille, I watched it with her (a couple times even). I was amazed how clever the dialogue was and that I could enjoy an animated film about a rat named Remy. (Who knew?) Further, there were amusing aspects for adults to enjoy.
As the grandchildren have grown, I’ve had additional exposure to other Pixar films, most especially the Veggie Tales series. The adventures of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber have been an entertaining diversion for my local grandson. Recreating tales like King George and the Ducky (based on the life of the biblical King David) and Lord of the Beans (a Lord of the Rings knockoff), Veggie Tales videos have energetic characters and memorable songs that are easy to sing and stick in your head. They’re fun and have positive, uplifting messages!
Over the weekend in T-Town (see yesterday’s post), the grandchildren began to tire after a later-than-usual dinner, so as a prelude to bedtime, we all sat down and watched Despicable Me. Of course, they’ve probably watched this video many, many times, but their attention didn’t flag watching it another time with us, and both my Beloved and I were drawn in to the redemptive tale of a bad-to-the-bone villain who turns over a new leaf.
The story isn’t particularly unique, both villains and charmers (three sweet little orphans) are predictable characters (think a red-haired Annie in three unique iterations). The action is typically cartoonish, i.e. over-the-top explosions, shark attacks and being slammed into the ground (as in Looney Tunes cartoons) where everyone gets back up and keeps going, no harm done.
Because I categorized Looney Tunes as one of the many cartoons I hated growing up, I’m uncomfortable making a comparison now with Despicable Me. (The first time I watched Elmer Fudd blasting his double-barreled shotgun, maybe I laughed. Thereafter, it bored me.) Still, the cartoonish mishaps are comparable.
The animation of Despicable Me is exceptional. What I also enjoyed were the characterizations. Villain Gru clearly has a soft spot in his heart and the three orphans worm their lovable way into his heart. If you’ve seen the film, you already know what I’m talking about. (Who knows? Maybe my Beloved and I were the only ones who hadn’t yet seen it!)
As I’ve reflected on the film, I’m aware of similarities between the film’s characters and how our grandchildren (not just the three with whom we spent the past weekend, but the other five as well) have wormed their lovable way into our hearts. I always expected I’d love my children’s offspring. That was a given. Still, I’m amazed at how intensely precious each one of them is and how thoroughly we enjoy watching them grow and develop!
Neither my Beloved nor I think of ourselves as variations of Gru (played despicably by Steve Carell). But I have to admit, there’s a temptation to let grumpiness and self-centeredness get in the way of actually enjoying one’s grandchildren. That subtle villainy crouches just beneath the surface. As in the final scenes of Despicable Me, Gru has a hard exterior … he shudders against the prospect of kissing the little girls goodnight. But every time he gives another iota of love to them, his icy exterior continues a warm up that grows into love.
At the end of the DVD, there’s a preview of a follow-up film, Despicable Me 2. Now, we’ve got to watch that one as well. Maybe even cuddle up to a grandchild (or more than one) before pressing “Play” on the remote. Fun!