Australian Council on Children and the Media

Despicable Me

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, PG to 10 (Violence, Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Despicable Me
  • a review of Despicable Me completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 September 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended dur to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 5-10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children over the age of 10 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Despicable Me
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild animated violence
Length 95 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Despicable Me traces the exploits of self-proclaimed villain Gru (Steve Carell) whose life goal is to be internationally recognised as a master criminal.  To this end, Gru has enlisted the help of the sinister inventor Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and hundreds of cute yellow creatures called “minions”.  Up to this point Gru has pulled off some small-time heists but he now feels the need to achieve greater acts of villainy.  Later, during flashbacks to his youth, it becomes apparent that the motivation for such actions stems from the lack of acknowledgement and love he received as a child. 

After learning that geeky rival villain Vector (Jason Segal) has successfully stolen one of the Giza pyramids, Gru becomes convinced that he must do something of even greater magnitude to gain the notoriety he craves.  He therefore plans to steal Vector’s “shrinking laser” gun in order to shrink and steal the moon.  However, gaining access to Vector’s heavily armed fortress proves almost impossible. 

In his desperate bid to become the most renowned villain, Gru comes across three orphan children (Margo, Agnes and Edith, played by Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gaier, respectively) who he thinks may be able to help.  Initially, his relationship with the girls is very stilted, but as time passes, he comes to appreciate the fullness they bring to his life.  When it appears that success is imminent, Gru realises he must make a choice that may change all of their lives.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Childhood emotional trauma; separation from a parent.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a great deal of violence in this movie including:

  • A television newscast shows soldiers firing rifles at unseen human targets
  • An unidentified minion hits another on the head with a hammer
  • A minion is fired from a cannon and crashes through a wooden stage floor
  • Minions punch and knock each other to the ground
  • One minion hits another minion back and forth with a table-tennis paddle
  • Bank manager, Mr. Perkins yells and threatens Gru
  • Mr. Perkins yells and threatens Vector
  • Gru pulls a laser gun to jump the queue in a fast-food restaurant
  • Gru shoots and injures Vector with a laser gun
  • Vector shoots a laser gun at Gru
  • Gru and Vector fire bombs at each other
  • Gru is punched and fired upon by lasers and bombs as he tries to infiltrate Vector’s fortress
  • Vector files missiles at Gru
  • Adoption agency administrator, Miss Hattie hits Gru around the head with a book

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • Gru’s alien dog-like pet frequently snarls in a threatening manner towards people;
  • In one scene, this creature launches itself at Gru, latching its teeth about his arm.  In response, Gru hurls the dog across the room; and
  • A large shark lunges from within its glass tank at Gru.  The 3D nature of this film heightens the immediacy of such scenes.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • An unidentified minion falls from a flying spacecraft and presumably dies
  • Edith, Agnes, Margo and Gru have a ride on a roller coaster.  While not frightening in itself, there is an element of 3D virtual participation, as audiences view the dizzying ride from the passengers’ perspective.  This experience may disturb some young viewers.
  • Agnes’ toy unicorn disintegrates after being hit by a laser beam.
  • Edith, Agnes and Margo run to avoid being struck by the moon.
  • The girls have to jump in mid-air from one space craft to another.
  • Both Margo and Gru fall from a flying spacecraft and hang by their fingers from a thin cable until being rescued by minions
  • Gru falls from a spacecraft and is left dangling precariously by his fingers over the side.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children younger children in this age group, including:

  • Justin, a child on holiday in Egypt, accidentally falls to the ground from the apex of a pyramid;
  • Edith wanders into and becomes trapped in a magician-style box that is permanently perforated with dozens of knives.  After the door closes, red fluid seeps out from within the chamber and it appears that Edith has been killed.  However, the audience soon learns that Edith is uninjured and the red liquid came from her juice container, which was pierced by the blades; and
  • Miss Hattie yells at the girls and threatens to put them in the “box of shame”, which is a small wooden crate with just one small slat for light and air.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There are no direct depictions of nudity or sexual activity in this movie, however, there are some mild scenes where:

  • Gru appears in his underpants;
  • A child’s drawing of Gru on the toilet is shown;
  • A minion photocopies his bare bottom and the audience sees the image produced;
  • Gru grabs his bottom while dancing, in a suggestive manner; and
  • Vector slaps his bottom while dancing, in another suggestive action.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • a minion appears to become stoned after drinking  “anti-gravity” formula and then floats to the ceiling

Coarse language

There is some mildly coarse and threatening language in this movie, including:

  • “God”;
  • “Curse you”
  • “Shoot”;
  • “Oh poop”
  • “He looks like a girl” (said as a put-down).

In a nutshell

Despicable Me is an entertaining children’s comedy with enough layers to appeal to audiences of all ages. The animation is skilfully conceived and constructed and the characters are given added depth by the cast. However, some parents may be disturbed by the amount of violence in the movie, and the failure to depict realistic consequences for such events. 

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • loyalty
  • determination
  • unselfishness

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • The results of self-centred actions, in contrast to those of consideration and care for others
  • The meaning of “success”
  • The actual consequences of violence and alternative, non-violent options for resolving problems.

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