/Movie Review – Despicable Me 2

Movie Review – Despicable Me 2

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– Summary –

Director :   Pierre Coffin + Chris Renaud.
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast : Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Moises Arias, Nasim Pedrad, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud.
Approx Running Time :   90 Minutes
Synopsis:   Gru finds himself associating with the mysterious Anti Villain League, in order to locate a powerful potion which could potentially lead to world domination.
What we think :  While it lacks the cutting sarcasm of its progenitor, this well animated and fairly lite-weight sequel is more often than not as amusing and as deft with story points as it needs to be. There’s not too much new or unique under the sun this time around, but the joy with which it all transpires is more than enough to overcome whatever shortcomings the film has working against it. Personally, I’d have preferred the filmmakers avoided thinking about making a Minions film (due out in 2015) when they could have made this film even better, but all the power to them for crafting a worthwhile franchise from what was originally a one-note premise.

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 The Gru-Ray player makes another appearance.

When Despicable Me made gazillions of dollars at the box office, there was little doubt that a sequel would inevitably find its way to our screens; continued adventures of Gru and his cute yellow Minions were as sure a thing as you could get, and here we now sit, reviewing Despicable Me 2, the obviously titled follow-up film. The story of a Bad Guy gone good – a villain, Gru, finding his leaf being not only turned, but well and truly twisted – made for interesting viewing in the original film, with the juxtanposition between Gru’s inherent “evilness” and his gradually enlarging (Grinch-like) heart working well with the wry humor and splendid animation and action sequences. I’d love to proclaim that Despicable Me 2 is just as good as the original, or better even, but it many ways it is not. In neutering Gru’s evil side at the end of the original film, the film-makers have had nowhere to go with the second, making the “Despicable” nomenclature somewhat redundant. That said, Despicable 2 is still an enjoyable watch, even if you get the sense that something intangible is missing…..

New Gru. New do.
New Gru. New do.

Gru (Steve Carrell) is happily (?) settled with his adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher), having set up a business enterprise making jams for retail. Gru’s evil sidekick, Doctor Nefaio, leaves after being offered another career opportunity. After a highly secret mutagen is stolen from a hidden laboratory in the Arctic, Gru is summoned to the headquarters of the Anti-Villain League by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), and tasked with locating said mutagen, which has been hidden within a local shopping mall. His partner in this mission is one Lucy Wilde (Kirsten Wiig), whom he initially hates but eventually grows to like. They track the mutagen to a Mexican restaurant owned by Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt), who, it turns out, is one-time Super Villain El Macho. With a plan t use Gru’s Minion’s to dominate the world, El Macho must be stopped, and apparently the only person able to do that is Gru himself. But will his love for Lucy and his inability to communicate his feelings leave our hero powerless to stop El Macho?

How to completely warp a child's life.
How to completely warp a child’s life.

As far as crowd pleasing, franchise-building cinematic events go, they don’t come more family-friendly than Despicable Me. The Bad Guy Gone Good story is a difficult one to do well, and in the original film the balance between Gru being a complete bastard and a somewhat acceptably nice guy was handled really nicely. Despicable Me 2 attempts to follow on from that story by having Gru, now a settled-down-father-of-three-yet-still-a-supervillain-type character, find himself a girlfriend. This apparent romantic interest comes from (typically) the most unlikely place, the ranks of the AVL, in Lucy Wilde. Gru’s girls, of course, think that they’ll find “a mother” if Gru hooks up with a woman, and Despicable Me 2 skirts potential emotional angst by just going with that idea instead of dredging up possible scenarios in which Gru lives the rest of his life desperate and alone; Despicable Me 2 finds that nice balance of character and story once again, belying the lack of sharp sarcastic wit in favor a more generic, sweet-as-pie outlook that contrasts greatly with the original films’ aesthetic.

Because a shark with explosives.
Because a shark with explosives.

There’s nothing wrong with what Despicable Me 2 delivers, at least at a very basic animated-film level. The characters are all fun to watch, the scripting is largely excellent (if somewhat formulaic) and the animation is true-to-form spectacular. The voice cast all do terrific jobs with their roles, be they large or small, and the overriding sense of the film is one of light-weight, fluffy fun. There’s nothing terribly serious here, no heart-breaking sorrow or melancholy (something the previous film had in decent quantity) and even the main Bad Guy Plot is forgettably inane; yet it all feels like a good time is being had, and in this regard you’d have to qualify Despicable 2 as a success. Where the film does flounder is in Gru’s lack of villainy. The guy has spent his entire life being bad, nasty and villainous, and now that he’s a father, he’s settled down into a life of boring hum-drummery. Poor Doctor Nefario even goes off and finds another job, he’s that bored with having nothing evil to do.

You've got some on your..... everywhere.
You’ve got some on your….. everywhere.

Where the first film had that humorous undercurrent of mean about it, with regards to Gru’s lack of empathy or heart, here this subtext has been washed over completely. Gru’s just another dad who used to be Bad, who still isn’t. That’s it. His Minions spend time baking and cooking jams and jellies for sale, a nice little business enterprise as far away from stealing the moon as you can get. Without Gru’s inherent villainy, the potential for him to be bad, Despicable 2 loses a lot of precious momentum and impact. It’s not that the film is worse for the lack, it just doesn’t quite have the same delicious flavor of edge. It just feels more…. generic. Which is a pity.

Puhhhllleeeeeease???
Puhhhllleeeeeease???

Despicable Me 2 delivers all the entertainment promised by the first installment, and in some ways actually surpasses it (the finale involving some roided-up Minions is particularly cool, as is the entire El Macho subplot) but the lack of Gru’s mischievous antics this time around leaves things all feeling just a little more same-same than they could have been. The cast are all excellent, the animation is stunning, and it’s always good to see the Minions doing their thing (I don’t find them quite as giggle-worthy as a lot of people, for some reason) – Despicable Me 2 does its job well, raises no fuss, and asks little of the audience. Competent, but not entirely memorable.

7-Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Normally detesting these kinds of bios, Rodney's keen love of film more often outclasses his ability to write convincingly about them. Never blessed with a body worthy of a porn star, nor being the heir to a wealthy industrialists fortune, nor suffering the tragedy of having his parents murdered outside a Gotham theater, Rodney is, contrary to popular opinion, neither Ron Jeremy, JD Rockefeller, or Batman. As a serious appreciator of film since 1996, Rodney's love affair with the medium has continued with his online blog, Fernby Films, a facility allowing him to communicate with fellow cineasts in their mutual love of all things movie.