Light the Night BC: Despicable Me in the Park

Going out to the cinema for a movie night or having a romantic evening picnic at the park have always been two completely different, separate dates for different nights (or perhaps one after the other on the same night if you and your date were feeling particularly ambitious and/or generous that day!). However, thanks to North America’s premiere outdoor theatre company, FreshAirCinema, here in Vancouver, enjoying both of these pleasurable activities simultaneously has become a local summertime favourite. Fresh air, soft grass, lots of space to sit, to sprawl, to slurp and crunch, and snuggle and munch under the stars, and of course, enjoy the magic of film on the big screen in the open air. Comfortable, enjoyable, and affordable: free outdoor movie nights are popping up in public parks all over BC, and are becoming more and more popular in our city.

Since the large inflatable screens can be rented by any organization and set up in almost any open, public space, there are lots of parks and movies to choose from and a variety of different causes to support. On Saturday, August 10th 2013, Despicable Me (2010) was brought to the screen at Trout Lake Park by Light the Night BC, promoting a series of fundraising walks put on by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Although the event was free there was a small VIP area sectioned off with orange ribbon. To sit here, centre field, you could make a small donation to Light the Night and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. And, with every drink and popcorn purchase you could “join the fight to find a cure”.

Screening Despicable Me just weeks after the cinema release of Despicable Me 2 was a wise choice to refresh memories, to welcome latecomers to the colourful, thrilling Despicable world, and build excitement for the sequel, which you could attend in theatres the very next day if you so wished. I have to say, re-watching Despicable Me, in a park filled with couples and families and tons of kids of all ages, helped me notice and appreciate the hidden subtleties and targeted, age-specific jokes that I didn’t necessarily see before. Despicable Me, is a cute and clever story about the world’s worst super villain, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell in a ridiculous over-the-top German accent). Gru decides he must outdo his rival, the younger more hip super villain Vector (Jason Segel) who has managed to achieve much greater ‘success’ as a world renown thief, villain, and evil-genius ‘bad-boy’. Gru gathers his minions who resemble little yellow pills that walk and talk in adorable squeaky jibberish and wear overalls! He reveals to all, his master plan… to steal the moon! But of course, stealing the moon will be expensive, so first, he’ll need a loan from the bank. Hilarity ensues.

Gru’s character is despicably charming and lovable. We see glimpses of his childhood and feel empathetic towards the unloved little boy who had an equally despicable mother. We understand why he’s grown up to be such a cold, grumpy, ‘evil’ adult. When Gru selfishly adopts three little cookie-selling orphan girls to assist him in his evil plan, his icy heart begins to melt. At first he treats them as unwanted critters, as pets he is obligated to feed, filling their water dish and food bowl with ‘kiddie’ food: candy and lollipops. The movie quickly becomes a movie about love and parenthood, about the bond between parent and child. Gru only becomes truly great in the end, as a caring, loving, and supportive single father. Probably my favourite aspect of the movie is the positive message it sends to single-parent families: there is no overwhelming need for Gru to fall in love and find a wife or partner to complete their family. Instead, Gru’s adorable little minions become part of the family, asking Gru for good night kisses too. Gru, his little yellow “cousins” and his three daughters live happily ever after in Gru’s not-so-evil lair… or do they? I guess I’ll have to go see Despicable Me 2 to find out.