This review contains spoilers for Despicable Me.
In the first Despicable Me film, super-villain Gru is bent on taking over the world, but somehow ends up becoming custodian to three young girls. As a result he learns to be a father and decides not to be evil anymore.
It’s been a while. But that’s the gist of it.
Now Gru and the girls (and the Minions, and Dr. Nefario) are back in Despicable Me 2, and this time it’s the good guys who want Gru to stop a new menace to society.
And then some other things happen.
After a strange magnetic machine steals a genetic enhancement formula from a polar research station, the Anti-Villain League sends Agent Lucy Wild to recruit Gru to their cause. Gru, however, is out of the game: he’s just a dad now, and he and his minions (and his science guy, Dr. Nefario) are working hard to create a line of gourmet jams and jellies. When Gru won’t come along, Lucy is forced to use other means to convince him (and a couple of minions) to visit their underground headquarters and their leader, Silas Ramsbottom*.
Eventually, the AVL convinces Gru to join their cause, and he and Lucy stake out the mall, where traces of the formula have been discovered. Now it’s up to Gru to figure out who’s got the stuff while also dealing with matchmaking neighbors, his inexperienced AVL sidekick, his oldest daughter’s infatuation with a fellow shop-owner’s son, and his youngest’s pressing need for a mom.
Oh, yeah, and the minions are there too, being yellow and pill-shaped and doing funny things.
Despicable Me 2 stars Steve Carell (The Office) as Gru, the reformed super-villain. As before, Carell uses an eastern European accent to make Gru seem funnier than he might otherwise be — similar to what Mike Myers did with Shrek. Kristen Wiig (Extract) plays Lucy Wild and, as many actors do who haven’t done much voice work, she overdoes it — although that might be partly the character. I didn’t see anything wrong with the casting; she just seemed to be too much sometimes. Finally, Benjamin Bratt (Private Practice) goes super-over-the-top as Eduardo, tango-dancing proprietor of the Salsa Salsa Mexican Restaurant, but that kind of made sense.
Other voice talent includes Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as Dr. Nefario, Steve Coogan (Neighbors from Hell) as Silas Ramsbottom, and Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (the film’s directors) as the Minions. Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly), Dana Gaier (all she’s done is the Despicable Me series), and Elsie Fisher (Masha and the Bear) return as Margo, Edith, and Agnes, Gru’s daughters.
One thing that I really loved about the Despicable Me films is the visual style. It’s sort of a cross between the throwbacks seen in The Incredibles and the absurdist style of Ralph Bakshi. The technology and scenery is distinctive and brightly-colored, and while we as moviegoers understand intellectually that (for example) a guy as big as Gru couldn’t fit in the trunk of a car which also can turn into a submarine and a jet, we completely believe it — not because it’s a cartoon, but because we’ve been seduced by the images.
Or, y’know, maybe that it’s a cartoon. Could be that. I dunno.
Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams returned to perform the music in Despicable Me 2. It was good, I suppose; I didn’t really notice it that much beyond the fact that Gru did have his own theme, and I’m the kind of person who appreciates that sort of thing. But it kept with the style of the film, in the same way that Michael Giacchino did for The Incredibles.
I think Despicable Me 2 accomplished what it set out to do, which is to be an entertaining film. I was thoroughly entertained the entire time, even though the story was relatively straightforward and didn’t cover any new ground. The plot was supported by a lot of sight and sound gags, mostly perpetrated by the Minions (although the scene with the guacamole hat was pretty amusing). There was the requisite amount of potty humor — including a 21**-fart-gun salute that I found exceptionally hilarious*** — and enough jokes that were aimed at adults (such as the Minions’ song at the end, which no one under 25 would have any hope of picking up on) to ostensibly keep the parents interested too.
Look, let’s be honest here: this film isn’t intended to be the best animated film ever. It’s here to capitalize on the popularity and marketability of the Minions, and to entertain kids and adults in such a way that they feel okay with having spent $50 on a night out at the movies with the family. I could tell on the way out that most of the moviegoers enjoyed themselves, and, really, isn’t that the important thing?
That and the Minions. Can’t help but smile at the antics of those guys.
Note to Parents: This film is rated PG. It contains some violence (none of it explicit, although there are images of actual guns — as opposed to cartoon ones — in the beginning), a little kissing, and some potty humor. It’s safe for all PG audiences — though of course you should use your best judgment when it comes to your children.
* Heh heh heh. Bottom.
** Actually 22.
*** As I’ve said in many previous articles, that’s my kind of humor.
About the Author
Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) lives in Georgia. His fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Escape Pod, and the Crossed Genres anthology Fat Girl in a Strange Land. His voice has been heard around the fiction podosphere as well, including here on Escape Pod. Find him online at roseplusman.com, or on Twitter @listener42.