A kind of animated James Bond film in reverse - because it's set in a world of only villains - Despicable Me is an imaginative computer-generated comedy that owes a significant debt to the old Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoons.
The coyote, in this case, is the world's greatest super-villain, a bald, barrel-chested, Eastern-European-accented dastard named Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell). But Gru has apparently lost a step or two, because his title has just been usurped by someone with the wherewithal to steal the great pyramid of Egypt.
Gru, however, is undiscouraged. He decides to commit the biggest crime of all time: the theft of nothing less than the moon. To do so, he will first need to steal a top-secret shrink ray, a minor obstacle.
The barrier to Gru's successful lunar caper: a new villain on the scene named Vector. Nerdy, with a bowl haircut, pear-shaped physique (encased in a banana-yellow jumpsuit) and thick horn-rimmed glasses, Vector (Jason Segal) is the inventor of such seemingly useless weapons as guns that fire piranhas and one that discharges squids - but he's the guy who stole the pyramid.
Even worse for Gru, when he goes to the bank for a loan to finance his moon theft, the manager at the Bank of Evil ("Formerly Lehman Brothers," their sign says) turns him down, saying that the bank is investing its money in younger, up-and-coming villains - like Vector. But if Gru can steal that shrink ray, the bank might reconsider.
Which Gru does - only to lose it to Vector, who squirrels it away in his impenetrable suburban fortress (where Gru's attempts to break in are frustrated in ways that would bring a smile of recognition to the face of Wile E. Coyote). Gru does discover Vector's weakness: the cookies sold to him by three orphan girls, as a fundraiser for their orphanage.
So Gru adopts the three girls, has his associate Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) invent cookie robots, and launches a new plan to grab the shrink ray and steal the moon. But even Gru's bitter heart and cranky temperament can't withstand the affections of three grateful little girls, who believe he has adopted them because he really wants them and who see the human being beneath Gru's villainous crust.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine