The first setback of Despicable Me 2, the 2013 sequel to the animated movie Despicable Me, is that it seems unnecessary. While it has a few strong moments, this feeling is inescapable, no amount of popcorn will drown it out. The fact that it follows so soon after another unnecessary animated sequel, Monsters University, only exacerbates this problem. Both will of course make an immense profit, so perhaps the vast majority of movie goers are so numb to disappointment that they don't care. Or maybe the vast majority of movie goers have children now, who knows.
In Despicable Me 2, ex-supervillain and adoptive parent Gru (Steve Carell) is reluctantly recruited by the Anti-Villain League to hunt down a new supervillain before he can put his master plan into play. Gru's mind, however, is elsewhere, on the growing pains of his young charges and the charms of fellow agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig). This is an absolute reversal of the first film. Gru’s humorous despicableness doesn't carry over, because the first film was all about the three little girls curing their father of his villainy, which they did entirely too well. Instead the sequel is mostly about finding Gru a wife so as to turn his unconventional family in to a more conventional one.
What really makes Despicable Me 2 a let down is that the first film, released in 2010, was so fresh. Despicable Me wasn't based on a comic book or a line of toys or an older movie, instead directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (The Lorax) produced an original story. A villain was cast as the hero of the narrative, opposite three boisterous little girls that are his responsibility. Audiences with no idea what to expect, and the reception was highly positive; the film raked in 250 million dollars in North America alone.
Yet almost none of that same creativity and new perspectives can be seen in the sequel, which reverts to a run of the mill animated film. No narrative solution is found to fill the void left by the end of Gru's amusing misanthropy. Instead, the anti-hero becomes a conventional hero pursuing women, and the three girls lose their roles as Gru's better halves. It is worth mentioning at this point that while the foundations of the movie may not be solid, the accusations that it is "crude, racist and sexist" are ridiculously overblown.
All of this faults are of course from the perspective of an adult; children make up a large part of the film's target market, and they'll love revisiting the series. This brings us to the Minions, those blobbly yellow knee-high tic tacs you've surely seen on posters. The pickier adult may find the film overconfident about the Minions' guiles, but, again, children will love them without reserve. The Minions at least have retained all of their fun and are the real joy of the sequel. Voiced by the directors in babbling helium-fuelled nonsense, the Minions play an increased role in the movie and their slapstick antics steal many scenes from the main characters. When injected with a serum by the film's villain, they transform into purple-furred monsters which further add to these tiny characters' charm. Indeed the hordes of yellow tic tacs are the film's highlight to such an extent that one questions why Despicable Me 2 wasn't just a bunch of Minion shorts. Their appeal is such that they are getting their own spin off next year, entitled Minions.
Lastly, the prognosis: if you have people less than three feet tall in your care, watching Despicable Me 2 is inescapable; if you don't but have a desire to go see an animated movie, watch Despicable Me on Netflix.
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