Movie Review: Despicable Me 2
By Matthew Huntley
July 8, 2013
After Despicable Me (2010) grossed over $500 million worldwide, a sequel was inevitable. And because three years have passed since the original (a long time by Hollywood standards), I figured and hoped the filmmakers would have conjured up a relevant and clever story for Despicable Me 2. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Despite the amount of time between the two, DM2 comes off as rushed and undercooked.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Gru, the ex-super-villain who, by the end of the first movie, had changed his ways and turned over a new leaf to become a loving father to three sweet girls, but the plot of DM2 proved too mundane and inconsequential for me. Even though it’s meant to be light, silly and kid-centric, I still wanted it to push the story and characters forward in creative and interesting ways. After all, isn’t that the point of a sequel?
Technically speaking, I suppose the movie does progress the adventures of Gru (voice of Steve Carell) and his three adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher) and Edith (Dana Gaier), albeit in a predictable way. Because Gru is a single father, and the girls are without a mother, it stands to reason the filmmakers would forge a story that completes their family puzzle by providing Gru a love interest. This is a sweet enough angle, but we’ve seen it before, and it’s surrounded by a rather lame-brained subplot that’s not as engaging as we otherwise hoped given the freshness of the original.
When the movie opens, a research lab in the Arctic Circle is yanked from the earth by a giant magnet. Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), head of the Anti-Villain League (AVL), is concerned because the crew was working on a serum that transforms its victims into purple, ravenous beasts with insatiable appetites. The AVL doesn’t want this falling into the wrong hands, so they send one of their new agents, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), out into the field to recruit Gru. They need his expertise as a former megalomaniac (remember, this was the guy who stole the moon) to help track down and thwart the latest criminal mastermind before he (or she) takes over the world.
After stunning Gru and a couple of his faithful minions - those yellow, thumb-shaped guys who speak their own gibberish language - with her lipstick taser, Lucy takes them under the sea to AVL headquarters. Ramsbottom informs Gru their wanted villain could be any one of the eccentric merchants at the local mall and is simply using his store as a front for world domination.
But Gru tells them he’s beyond this lifestyle. He’s busy raising his girls and trying to start a legitimate jam and jelly business. But when Gru’s trusted employee, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), admits he misses being evil and quits, Gru decides to help the AVL out, and not just because he kinda sorta likes the sprightly Lucy and senses a chemistry between them, despite his rough and unsuccessful dating history.
The other dilemma on Gru’s plate comes when Margo takes an interest in the suave and dangerous Antonio (Moises Arias), son of Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), a Mexican restaurant owner whom Gru suspects is the former villain El Macho. There’s an amusing sequence when Gru and the girls head to Eduardo’s Cinco de Mayo party and he does everything in his power to make sure Margo and Antonio don’t get too close on the dance floor.
Despicable Me 2 will no doubt keep members of its target audience happy for 100 minutes, especially with the minions’ slapstick and bodily function humor, but there just weren’t enough laughs or substance to sustain my interest. Perhaps if the movie had given its characters a more inventive and original plot to inhabit, I’d have responded more positively to its efforts, but ultimately, I viewed it as a standard Hollywood cash grab rather than a purposeful continuation of the first film.
Am I holding DM2, which is meant to be a frivolous family comedy, to too high a standard? I don’t think so, because the trend I’m noticing with all computer animated movies lately, including the recent Monsters University, is they’re becoming less original and surprising with each new installment. Ironically, now that the novelty of computer animation has plateaued, there seems to be a hesitation by the major Hollywood studios to invest in risky narratives. You’d think it would be the opposite so they could keep viewers’ interest afloat, but instead they’re relying on traditional formulas to win us over. To me, this pattern is not only selling kids short by providing them less creative storytelling, but it’s putting adults at a disadvantage since we’re not as easily swayed by bright colors and juvenile humor. Plus, we’re the ones paying for the tickets.