Despicable Me 2
US (2013) Dirs. Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
The Minions are back! Oh and so is Felonious Gru, the former super villain who has now gone legit, running a jelly making factory while bringing up the three orphaned girls Margo, Edith and Agnes. Gru might be on the straight and narrow but the crime world continues to reign, with an unknown villain steals a powerful mutagen called PX-41from a secret arctic base. The Anti-Villain League (AVL) recruits a reluctant Gru to help find the culprit, hoping his past knowledge of villainy would be an asset. Gru is partnered with the gung ho agent Lucy Wilde, going undercover as cup cake store owners at a mall where they believe the villain is hiding out.
It seems to be a pre-requisite nowadays that every CGI animated film should begat a sequel and the success of Despicable Me keeps this unofficial ethos very much alive. Of course sequels are hit and miss, either being able to successfully take the premise and characters somewhere new or being a simple shameless cash in designed to capitalise on the popularity of the first. Many critics have been unkind to this film, feeling it falls somewhere in the latter category but it really isn’t that bad, paying it more for laughs than the first film.
Arguably the biggest change which has upset audiences, possibly with some validity, is that Gru isn’t despicable anymore which sort of undermines the film’s title. He’s still a resourceful, quick witted chap but lacks the all important killer edge that made him such an interesting character in the first place. But don’t read that to mean that Gru isn’t still fun to watch because being a parent means having to make some unpopular decisions sometimes. Speaking of which, Gru’s long time partner Dr. Nefario decides to accept a job offer elsewhere, missing the days of being evil, which helps Gru make up his mind about helping the AVL.
Gru and Lucy don’t get on at first, the latter being a bit scatterbrained while the former tries to be all business. If you are thinking you know where this thread is heading then you are way ahead of the writers. Setting up the cake shop at the mall, the duo are welcomed by the flamboyant Eduardo Perez, owner of the Mexican restaurant in the mall, whose son Antonio falls for Gru’s eldest Margo. Aside from being feuding fathers Gru believes that Perez is in fact the legendary super villain El Macho, a man who was thought to be dead. Meanwhile Gru’s minions start disappearing.
Admittedly the story doesn’t have the inventiveness of its predecessor and relies on too many familiar and predictable conventions for its one good – but it’s a very funny and energetic outing that is rife with wonderfully creative set pieces, hilarious gags and a range of impressive gadgets and weaponry that Wile. E. Coyote would have given his eye teeth to have in his endless pursuit of the Road Runner! So, if you enter this film as you would a 1930’s screwball comedy – a lightweight plot but a full of laughs, then this film is more rewarding than the negative reviews will give it credit for.
One gets the impression that there were two ideas being pitted here for the script – one which saw Gru trying to adapt to domesticity and parenthood and messing it up by going to extremes, the other revolving around the fate of the minions in conjunction with the criminal escapades of the PX-41 thief. Both have potential but the lack of commitment to either one results in the fairly safe middle ground compromise we were left with.
While the script itself doesn’t sparkle with too many witty lines or gags the delivery of them from lead man Steve Carrell and his co-stars adds a lot to raising the expectant reciprocal titters from the audience. Gru is blessed with an eastern European influenced accent which adds to the mirth of his dialogue, which sadly overshadows the rest of the cast with their typically safe American accents, Perez aside whose suave but somewhat exaggerated Latino swagger, courtesy of Benjamin Bratt, is at least full of life. I’ve never been a fan of Kristen Wiig and while I’ll credit her with competent comic timing she still manages to be annoying in this voice only role! The kids are suitably cute though, thankfully without the usual forced saccharine and treacle to drive the viewer to slice their own ears off!
As per my cheeky opening quip, the Minions once again steal the show and I’m sure that I’m not the only one for whom the supposed prequel due next year can’t come soon enough. Perhaps not featured as much as they should, they are the highlight of every scene be it in the background or upfront and never fail to raise a laugh. Their antics range from the outrageous to the ridiculous, making even the simplest quotidian task into a laugh riot, not limited to a little cosplay to complete the illusion either, but the end result is always entertaining. Even if you don’t get anything from this film it is unlikely it won’t be due the Minions!
I won’t lie to you, I actually enjoyed Despicable Me 2. It is an energetic and fun film that may be bogged down by story conventions but isn’t imprisoned by them, sparing us any needlessly protracted moment of false sentimentality to play with our emotions. Switch your brain off, take off your critical hat and enjoy this for the vibrant, visually exciting and superbly silly slice of family bubble gum entertainment that it is.