Despicable Me 2
Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul
Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Moises Arias, Nasim Pedrad
PG for rude humor and mild action
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Some movies don’t lend themselves well to sequels, but studios keep trying to wring as much adventure and money out of existing properties as they can. That’s one of the reasons why Despicable Me 2 just isn’t as good as its predecessor.
Not for lack of trying, original screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul have brought back Gru (Steve Carell) and his three adoptive daughters along with a boatload of small, yellow minions whose perpetual ineptitude and humorous adventures keep some of the more tedious elements in the film afloat. The first film’s directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud are also back, but neither they nor the writers are able to reignite the sense of discovery and excitement the original put together.
In this sequel, Gru has settled in as a father having found his footing in the original film. Now attempting to make a business using his evil lair as a manufacturing facility for an assortment of jams and jellies. His trusted mad scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) has grown tired of the lack of villainy afoot and departs him for another villain leaving Gru questioning his position as a world renowned villain. Presented with the opportunity to ferret out a new villain from an array of shopkeepers at a local mall, Gru believes he’s found the reincarnation of a legendary villain, but convincing his superiors becomes more difficult than he imagined.
The Anti-Villain League, which is organizing the operation assigns a neophyte agent to assist Gru. Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) has an adventurous spirit, but a general lack of common sense that gets the pair into trouble more often than they would like. Together, they work handily together and attempt to stave off affection for one another while simultaneously investigating both Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt) and Floyd Eagle-san (Ken Jeong).
The number of missed opportunities in the film far outweigh any sense of excitement to be had. There’s little doubt that the film is incurably funny. There are few scenes that aren’t mined for situational comedy with great aplomb, but a film that focuses on finding the humor instead of finding its way isn’t the kind of movie that lasts in the mind for very long. The various plotlines are laid out in advance and few elements come as big surprises. That the new bakery doesn’t provide an output for Gru’s horrendous jelly concoction and the brief mention of providing cupcakes to Eduardo’s Cinco de Mayo party is dropped entirely leaves you to wonder if any forethought was given to the events that would unfold as the film wound towards its action-filled finale.
Even the conclusion has elements that are too contrived to make much impact. The fight at the finale is brief and pointless while most of the great interaction between Gru and his daughters is glazed over at every chance. The first film was not only funny, but had a swiftly moving, intertwined plot that entertained and thrilled. You recognize that Gru has softened by the end of that film and while he eventually succeeds at his plot to steal the moon, it’s his attempts to find normalcy and admiration from three young girls who were at first merely means to an end that lends the film its passion and heart.
Despicable Me 2 could have been better served by sending Gru back to his villainous ways pushing him towards an unreasonable edge that threatens to destroy his family, but all familial tension is placed into a single, paternal struggle to prevent Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) from getting involved with and injured by Eduardo’s son. And when his suspicions hold true, Gru spends too little time comforting before moving onto the next plot development making the kids an afterthought and not a central part of the premise.
Young children should be enthralled by the film’s simplistic and humorous characters and many adults will likely be entertained while accompanying their children, but the hopes that Illumination Entertainment could parlay their success with the original film into a lasting series of grown-up animated features in the spirit of DreamWorks and Pixar is dashed by an obsessive need to milk as much money out of a property as they can with the absolute least amount of effort. And that’s why Despicable Me 2 ultimately fails and will continue to fail in the planned and likely further sequels. It’s a largely funny film that unnecessarily pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Probables: Animated Feature
July 9, 2013