Film Review: Despicable Me 2

by Chad Liffmann on July 3, 2013

Steve Carell as Gru, standing with two adorable minions, in Despicable Me 2

Steve Carell as Gru, standing with two adorable minions, in Despicable Me 2

Gru’s minions are so gosh darn adorable and hilarious!  The production team behind Despicable Me 2 knows this, hence the endless amounts of advertising for the film featuring the little yellow round bundles of gibberish-speaking joy.  Despicable Me 2 lacks the overall charm of the original, choosing instead to focus on minion mayhem, a tireless string of jokes, and adorable slapstick humor.  This isn’t to say the film lacks a clever story.  In fact, Despicable Me 2 impressively avoids trudging down expected paths.  However, the story doesn’t feature the same emotional core as the original, nor does it stay as focused.  Despicable Me 2 meanders a bit, but never loses sight of the task at hand — to entertain and have a really good time doing so.  Plus…those minions!

It is obvious that the voice cast had a great time voicing their characters.  Steve Carell returns as Gru, the turnip-shaped former villain with an indistinguishable Eastern European accent, who now acts mainly as a devoted and caring stay-at-home dad to three loving daughters, Margo, Edith and Agnes.  Agnes, in particular, is impeccably animated and cast (voice of Elsie Fisher).  She is so cute you just want to eat her up!  Gru is out of the villain game, aiming to thrive, instead, as an entrepreneur in a field that I won’t spoil here.  Gru’s scientist assistant, Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand), isn’t inspired by Gru’s new domestic ways and leaves to seek villainous employment elsewhere.  Kristin Wiig joins the cast of DM2 as Lucy, an agent for the Anti-Villain Leage (AVL), who recruits Gru to help find and stop a mysterious evil-doer equipped with a dangerous syrum.  Despite crazy antics that may please children, but falls short for adults, Lucy is a delightful character and a good source of energy to compliment Gru’s conservative social nature.  The top voice award, however, goes to Piere Coffin, who voices the hundreds of minions.

The minions are given considerably more screen time in Despicable Me 2 than they were given in the original, yet they never overstay their welcome.  It’s fun to watch them clean the house, care for the kids while Gru’s away, and work in secret labs, etc.  They are nearly as efficient as housekeepers as they are at causing total destruction.  That said, one of the reasons they’re so welcome to the story, aside from their cuteness, is that they actually are useful, each minion willing to take on numerous tasks with the unflinching loyalty of a family dog.  And, with names like Kevin, Bob, and Stuart, the hundreds of minions are just like the friendly blue-collared workers that we recognize as crucial to a thriving industrial society, or in this case, Gru’s random biddings.  The minions’ silliness never gets (too much) in the way of the plot, primarily because the plot never gets too serious, either.

Similar to this summer’s other animated sequel, Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 chooses laughs over story depth.  The film establishes the storyline early and rides it along for the remainder of the film, taking some excursions here and there to throw in somewhat unrelated, if not unnecessary, frantic humor.  There were a few moments when I feared the story would take an expected turn and create a rift between two characters as a way to inject emotional weight, but it thankfully doesn’t and the screenwriters should be well commended for it.

So, to sum up, in case you didn’t catch the theme here — Despicable Me 2 will entertain you if you’re a fan of the minions.  If not, I can say with some certainty that you’ll find the film fairly annoying.  It has a wide range of humor to offer parents and children alike, and for the stray young adults that just like a fun animated movie to pass the time.

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Despicable Me 2 opens in Bay Area theaters today, July 3, 2013.

 

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