Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Year Released: 2013
Running Time: 98 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Kids and Family, Animation, Action/Adventure
(Note: this review contains spoilers for Despicable Me (the prequel))
2010’s Despicable Me stands out as one of the more original kids’ films of the last five years. In that movie, evil genius Gru (Steve Carell) attempts to steal the moon. Because of plot reasons, Gru adopts three little girls. Because it’s a kids’ movie, Gru relinquishes his villainous ways to become a good father. All in all, it’s a pretty cute film, full of laughs and “awww”.
Understandably then, you had to wonder where they’d go with Despicable Me 2. It necessarily lacks the villainous glee of the first movie, which is both good and bad: good, because it means there’s character development; and bad, because it’s not as original. In the sequel, Gru has his hands full being a parent and intends to start a business making jams and jellies. All seems well until he is suddenly kidnapped by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent from the Anti-Villain League. Apparently, someone has created a chemical that turns its victims into mutant purple killing machines. The AVL “recruits” Gru in the hope that his expertise in villainy will enable him to uncover the identity of the villain responsible. Personally, I liked that they made Gru an “ex-villain” rather than a sudden, all-out hero.
Like the first movie, there are plenty of laughs to go around, whatever your age. The humour ranges from slapstick, mostly played out by Gru’s adorable Minions, to send-ups of stereotypes, like the improbably tough Mexican wrestler villain El Macho and the fitness freak blonde girl with whom Gru goes on a date. I actually laughed out loud a lot during this movie, which is more than I can say for most comedies.
From the promotional materials and from the moment she shows up on screen, you know that Lucy is Gru’s designated love interest. Gru’s daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) also gets a love interest in the form of the dashing Antonio (Moisés Arias). Sadly, the romantic plot developments in the film felt exactly like that: they were moments I felt I had to endure in order to get to the rest of the story and were only palatable when intertwined with comedy, like when Gru goes all overprotective dad over Margo’s new boyfriend.
The animation is cute and colourful and I found myself admiring Gru’s home décor more than once. The 3D is used effectively: I liked that I was able to look into the sets, rather than at them, particularly in big, busy locations such as the mall. If you want to get the “most” out of the 3D, then you may want to stay for the credits as you’ll get to see some Minions shoving stuff at you through the screen.
Conceptually, Despicable Me 2 is “less” than its predecessor: the villain protagonist angle is gone, a predictable romance plot has been added and there’s less interaction between Gru and his kids. That said, I think I liked this film more. While Gru’s relationship with his daughters is more static, there are still plenty of heart-warming “family” moments of the kind that made the first movie so memorable. There’s also a greater sense of chaos compared to the very plot-driven prequel and I’m pretty sure it’s funnier as well. The cute little Minions also get to play a bigger part, which, admittedly, may or may not be a good thing, depending largely on whether you’re a parent who’ll now have to fork out on Minion toys (now available at a store near you).
Despicable Me 2 is a fun, funny, fluffy family movie and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It’s no masterpiece of cinema, but with the current crop of movies out right now you could easily do worse.
Alex’s Rating: 3.5/5