Mark Reviews Movies

Despicable Me 2


2 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Cast: The voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Moises Arias

MPAA Rating: PG (for rude humor and mild action)

Running Time: 1:38

Release Date: 7/3/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 4, 2013

Lest anyone think Gru (voice of Steve Carell)—the criminal mastermind who stole the moon only to return it because his sense of responsibility toward three orphans outweighed his resentment toward a world that never understood him—might undergo a change of heart and return to his nefarious ways, Despicable Me 2 finds him quite comfortable in the role of a father. He's transformed his laboratory into a workshop where he and his minions—those short, yellow pod-shaped creatures that speak in a combination of Romance languages and nonsense—make assorted jams and jellies. He tucks in his adopted daughters every night.

Gru was never that interesting as a villain, but at least his acts of casual wickedness gave him an identity. If he was bland before, he's downright dull now. In the first movie, he had an arc; here, he's stagnant.

The reason is simple: With the absence of his villainy, there is simply no hook for the character. The result is a meandering, unfocused movie that tries to force more material out of a gimmick—without actually using the gimmick—than is possible.

After the theft of an entire research station in the Arctic using an airship like a giant magnet, Gru is called upon by Lucy (voice of Kristen Wiig—not the same character she voiced in the first movie), an agent for the Anti-Villain League. The stolen facility housed a formula that can turn living things into monstrous purple creatures, and the League believes the super-villain who stole it is in disguise as a business owner in a local mall.

Gru is hesitant about the job at first, but after his trusty lab assistant Dr. Nefario (voice of Russell Brand) quits due to a lack of evil plans in his current role as designer of jams and jellies—not to mention the general failure of his business venture—he decides to take it. He sets up shop disguised as the owner of a bakery and begins going through the list of possible suspects. He's convinced a restaurateur named Eduardo (voice of Benjamin Bratt) is actually a super-villain called El Macho, who died, most people believe, in a most macho way—riding a shark strapped with dynamite into an active volcano.

In case it's not clear yet, the screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul—realizing, perhaps, that there's nowhere else for the central character to go—quickly pushes Gru to the side in favor of the movie's supporting and ancillary characters. There is an abundance of them—too many, in fact, for the movie to do much of anything with them, either. His eldest daughter Margo (voice of Miranda Cosgrove) gets into her first romantic relationship with Eduardo's son Antonio (voice of Moises Arias), which sets Gru's protective side in full motion (He tries convince the League to apprehend Eduardo and Antonio to get the kid out of the way). His younger daughters Agnes (voice of Elsie Fisher) and Edith (voice of Dana Gaier) barely figure into any of this until they get caught up in the climactic fight to stop the plot of the villain.

It's the non-human characters that get the most attention. First, there's Eduardo's guard rooster, which does not take too kindly to Gru and Lucy when they break into the restaurant to determine if there are traces of the formula there. Then, of course, there are the minions, who start disappearing one by one and in large groups (They all rush to an ice cream truck, pushing a smaller group of excited kids out of the way) as part of the villain's plan. These creatures are so odd, with their tendency to dress up in silly outfits and making a dignified show of shooting fart guns and abusing each other in comic ways, that they're inherently amusing, but the movie relies on them so often for humor that their shtick starts to wear thin (Admittedly, their final rendition of a pop ballad from the 1990s is quite funny).

Meanwhile, Gru's through line centers on his reluctance to hit the dating scene, which leads to one decent gag in which he Lucy bond while trying to sneak the unconscious body of his self-absorbed date into the trunk of a car. There's also a clever bit of juxtaposing montages—one in which Gru skips around helping people when he's in love and the other in which he mopes around town making instinctively trying to make people as miserable as he is when he thinks he's lost his chance at happiness—but the entire concept of Gru's love life comes far too late and in the middle of too much plot for it to really register as a guiding reason for the continuation of his story.

So many elements of the movie, really, come across as afterthoughts. Despicable Me 2 isn't a rehash of the first movie, but that almost seems like a better idea than this underdeveloped and drifting sequel.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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