Despicable Me 2 Review
While it has its moments of hilarity – mostly because of those hysterical Minions – Despicable Me 2 is a cash grab, pure and simple.
When compared to all the gems we were given in 2012, I would say that 2013 has thus far been a weak year for animated films. This is mainly because most studios have decided to play it safe by releasing sequels/prequels, or simply by failing to do something memorable with a great concept. Illumination Entertainment is also playing things close to the chest this year, for their latest animated offering is a sequel to their 2010 smash hit Despicable Me. Now that it’s in theaters, can Despicable Me 2 affect audiences with the same level of charm, hilarity and originality that its predecessor did?
Some time has passed since the events of Despicable Me, and at this point ex-supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) has fully immersed himself in his new life with his three adopted daughters. One day, however, he is suddenly thrown back into action when a brand new agent of the Anti-Villain League known as Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) kidnaps him. When taken aboard the AVL’s submarine headquarters, he learns that the agency brought him in to help unlock a mystery surrounding the thieving of a secret laboratory in the Arctic Circle. The lab was known for developing a chemical known as PX-41, which has the power to transform organic lifeforms into indestructible killing machines. With that in mind, Director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) of the AVL sends Gru and Wilde to find the one who has stolen PX-41 and thwart whatever evil plan may be surfacing.
To be rather blunt here, I was disappointed by Despicable Me 2, however I found it to be a watchable film. After all, I like the character of Gru, and there are still plenty of funny moments in Despicable Me 2. Truth be told, the Minions are simply hysterical here, and they provide for the best moments in the entire picture. That leads to my main point though – if not for the Minions, there wouldn’t be anything in Despicable Me 2 that would want me to stay in my seat. It is a 100% cash grab, for I felt that the plot was thrown together just by how unfocused and undeveloped it was. Shall I go into details? Well, first off, Despicable Me 2 doesn’t take any true risks, so it is very predictable. The story tries to branch off into multiple subplots, which of course tears down the pacing and leaves many character arcs undeveloped – particularly romantic relationships. Other than that, the villain here pales in comparison to Vector, and it is just offensive that the villain is simply an overwrought cultural stereotype. I can’t deny that Despicable Me 2 can be a fun summer experience for the whole family, but unfortunately the story at hand is forgettable.
At least the voice work is still good, if not great. Steve Carell has made the character of Gru all his known at this point, and he is once again funny and interesting in the role. Kristen Wiig plays Lucy Wilde, and although her tendency to “over-act” became tiresome for me after a while, I still enjoyed what she brought to the film; I blame that aspect of her performance more on the writers. Russell Brand does fine work as Dr. Nefario once again, and of course all of the voice actresses playing Gru’s adoptive daughters are good as well. Benjamin Bratt also works as the villain, but I still would have loved to see what Al Pacino would have done since he was the original casting choice. Ultimately though, the main reason this film holds together in the end is chiefly because of the two directors of Despicable Me 2, for without them the Minions would not be as funny as they are. If not for that, this film would likely fall apart.
The animation in Despicable Me 2 is not spectacular, but it is passable. The characters may have odd features, but where this film may lack in narrative creativity, Illumination Entertainment makes up for it in visual touches. Despicable Me 2 is a technically sound picture, and the environments, characters and other small details look good. While they may not have the crispness and image fluidity of other CG pictures released this year, the visuals are nonetheless one of the better aspects of Despicable Me 2. The musical score provided here is also acceptable, if instantly forgettable. It just does enough to underly the picture to the point that people can have a slight emotional reaction to it, but not enough to be overbearing.
Please do not get the impression that you should not see this film based on my review – I respect what the filmmakers tried to do to elevate what is an obviously studio-driven sequel, and it at times can be an entertaining, watchable experience. Still, I cannot deny that I felt disappointed as I left the screening of Despicable Me 2. As I said, the Minions are truly the main reason to see Despicable Me 2 – I guarantee that if you pay to see this film solely for them, you will leave the theater satisfied. Otherwise, what should have been a great follow-up to a surprise hit is a soulless, predictable, forgettable cash grab.