Genre: Animation, Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove
2010s Despicable Me was Universal’s attempt to mirror the success of Pixar and, to a lesser extent, DreamWorks. Its narrative was superb; exciting, heartfelt & original, but the laugh count was lacking. It was also commercially successful, meaning this sequel was inevitable if surprisingly long in gestation. The good news is that Despicable Me 2 writes the comic wrongs of the original, but it’s at the expense of the plot; tiresome sequel fodder, that steals from the well worn formula already used in the Ice Age sequels amongst others.
We now find ex-supervillain Gru focusing on being a dad to his 3 adoptive daughters, while using his lair to develop a range of preserves. However, a visit from Agent Lucy Wilde of the Anti-Villain League returns Gru to action, assisting Wilde’s investigation into the theft of a top-secret lab. Meanwhile, Gru’s Minions begin to inexplicably disappear.
The film’s biggest problem doesn’t lie in the main narrative, which while predictable is also exciting enough to keep the young interested, but in the overbearing sub-plot involving love and first dates. Like Manny in Ice Age 2, Gru gradually becomes infatuated with his female counterpart, spurred on by Agnes’ want for a mother to complete their family. Unlike the adoption theme of the first, this feels forced; only put in to the story when the narrative is slugging. Worse still is the story involving Margo’s crush on the son of a potential antagonist, put in to potentially explore a new dynamic of Gru’s parenthood and then forgotten about.
Thankfully, the film remains funny enough to keep both children and adults interested throughout. Steve Carell clearly relishes the role of Gru and while the other characters rarely get any good lines – Kristen Wiig’s vocal talents feel wasted – the writers are sure to make the most of Carell’s abilities.
Most of the funny though comes from Gru’s Minions, whose role is significantly beefed up for this sequel. Their childish nature is infectious and they light up the screen whenever they’re on it. That said, whether they really have enough potential to carry their own feature length spin-off film remains to be seen.
As with the first film, the visuals are impressive, although not in need of the 3D conversion, which feels more unnecessary this time round than in the first film. Particularly impressive is the films all-action finale, which ups the ante of the first’s sky set piece. It’s a shame the films baddie isn’t given more time on screen though, not reveled until the end of the second act and then barely given enough time to make any sort of lasting impression; that Al Pacino dropped out at the last minute is unsurprising.
Certainly funnier than the first but just not as interesting, Despicable Me 2 will keep the kids entertained and doubtless make the adults laugh. However, this remains vastly inferior to the quality of Pixar’s finest offerings.