Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2 is much too sugar-coated and cutesy-wutesy to warrant such a negative title, and so is the film’s central character Gru (Steve Carell), whose “villainous” personality in the film’s predecessor has been softened by unexpected fatherhood. The sploshy animation plays more like the new episode of a long television program rather than a blockbuster movie sequel. The odds were stacked against me enjoying this film (two animated sequels in a row is usually where I max out emotionally). But the film’s whimsical yet forthright refusal to take anything about itself seriously allows it to dissolve sweetly like a large, sticky cone of cotton candy in the mouths of the audience. This is what sequels should be like.
The film’s story was transparently plotted in a “say the first thing that pops to mind and see what sticks” kind of brainstorming session. The only thing still despicable about ex-evil mastermind Gru is his unsightly triangular shape and bald head – now that he is taking care of three orphans (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher from oldest to youngest) he uses his sinister schemes and army of overall-clad living corn puffs known as “Minions” to keep the girls happy.
Which makes the ultimately unexplained choice by the Anti-Villain League (self-explanatory in mission) to recruit Gru to their ranks pretty odd. Gru is kidnapped by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), an AVL agent as socially unhinged as you would expect any character voiced by Wiig (who is basically my BFF) to be. Gru and Wilde are appointed to a hideout disguised as a cupcake shop where they investigate surrounding shopkeepers, one of whom invented a giant magnet capable of destroying entire Arctic laboratories, and most likely plans to do something evil with it.
The premise sounds like stupid fluff because it is. So is the rest of the movie. The Minions in particular must have felt like a risk at the drawing boards, but are nothing short of animated magic: they’re simple yet dazzlingly entertaining, and I pity the sad husk of a human who doesn’t enjoy them (at least in small doses). They’ve basically taken over my thinking process. If they made an album of Minions singing covers of classic 80s hits I wouldn’t buy it but I would appreciate the comedic effort.
The script insists on using flimsy character development to fuel the self-caffeinated whiplash of a story. Yes it’s completely unnecessary, but yes, audiences young and old alike will care for these stupid characters. The events in the movie are as simple as they come – Gru and Wilde develop childlike crushes on each other but are too nervous to tell the other about it. Margo (Cosgrove) has her first crush. Meanwhile the unidentified villain targets the Minions as his next project. The film feels like a chapter of what will inevitably be a long lasting franchise.
The movie also deserves an entire paragraph about how it didn’t try to make some stupid pun in its title like animated sequels usually do. Was anyone else dreading something horrible like “Despicable? Me 2!” as the title? Probably not but we still have to acknowledge what Illumination Entertainment did for us here.
Be yourself, Despicable Me. I like you.