3 STARS – Shallow
The journey of Gru (Steve Carell) from master villain to a respectable father is now in its third chapter. As in all of our lives, this journey from bad to good must at some point address our unique family heritage. Though we are not destined to repeat our family “business” there is nevertheless a strong pull to do so. That is the theme of this computer-generated animated film co-directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon.
As experienced in the first two films, Gru is in love with his three adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and little Agnes (Nev Scharrel). Rounding out his family is his wife and daughters’ stepmom Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who is also Gru’s partner in their crime-fighting career in the Anti-Villain League. However when Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) is able to escape Gru and Lucy’s grasp they are fired from the League. In their subsequent poverty, the Minions rebel and the girls start selling their toys, but soon their fortune and temptations change.
We won’t spoil the nature of that change except to explain that Gru’s understanding of who his father is and that he was an only child was a lie told to him by his mother, Marlena (Julie Andrews). In this chapter Gru discovers he has a twin brother named Dru and his father was a wealthy master criminal. Now that his father has truly died, Dru sends for his twin to take over the family business. It is this temptation to do so that weaves the fabric of the tale.
When the commandments of God were given to Moses, we are given the explanation that the sin of a parent will negatively impact the lives of their descendants up to their third and fourth generations but the blessing of a parent will positively impact up to a thousand generations. In psychology this multigenerational transmission process notes the impact of parents and grandparents on our temperament, personality, values and behavior. We see this in both Gru and Dru as they struggle to gain their deceased father’s approval and each other’s love.
Though all of us have a unique blend that we received from our parents, it is seldom as clear as a cartoon depicts it. The temptation to return to a life of crime because his father modeled it, his brother desires it and his minions demand it, is offset by Gru’s wife and children who know him to be a good man. It is this awareness of our impact on our own children that often helps motivate us to be our best selves. That is the underlying theme of this film and a worthy message for all of us.
- When the struggle to live a good life becomes difficult, the temptation to return to a life of crime is increased for Gru. How do you deal with the struggles and disappointments in life and what are the temptations you face?
- The impact of Gru’s mother is obviously destructive in his life. What do you think would have been the result of having been raised by both his mother and father? How has the blend of your own parents impacted you?
- Cartoons can present life in a rather black-and-white way. Do you think this is helpful or harmful in the development of children?