Despicable Me 2

Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt
Length: 98 minutes
Country: USA

The original Despicable Me proved to be somewhat of a surprise hit back upon its release in 2010. An animated film that was not under the Pixar or DreamWorks banner managed to hit the ball right out of the park when it came to connecting with audiences.

With its colourful mix of surreal design and cute characters, it was a film that certainly appealed to many an animation fan’s tastes. I, for one, was not quite as taken with Gru and his band of admittedly loveable minions. It lacked the edge, sophistication and story-telling finesse that it needed to have in order to be seen as worthy competition to the already incredibly competitive market of animated cinema, at least in terms of artistic fulfilment. To paraphrase Agnes’ oft-quoted line from the first instalment, I simply found it far too ‘fluffy’. However, by accumulating great box office results, a sequel was an inevitability. And while the same criticisms remain, Despicable Me 2 proves to be a fun, joyful, and easy-going summer cinema-going experience.

Having left his life behind as a super-villain to become a full time father to three orphans Margo, Edith, and Agnes, Gru (voiced with gusto by Steve Carell) has begun to miss the excitement of planning to take over the world, and the gadget play that comes along with it. However, all that is about to change. Gru is approached by the Anti-Villain League to track down a mysterious super-villain who has stolen a new government formula designed to turn anything that ingests it into a ferocious creature. Partnered with new Anti-Villain League recruit Lucy (Kristen Wiig being the fantastic Kristen Wiig we all know and love), Gru must now do all he can to save the world, rather than dominate it.

Despicable Me 2 proves to be a fun, joyful, and easy-going summer cinema-going experience

First off, the story for Despicable Me 2 holds very little in the way of surprises. The first instalment found an edge and a unique selling point in subverting the antagonist into the protagonist (although Megamind did it better), whereas this sequel seems to struggle to find a focus, now that its villain is no longer seeking to dominate the world. It attempts to find a new lease of fun in the array of gadgets and interplay between Gru and Lucy, which leads to a predictable romance. But while the thrills are predictable and we know the narrative progression beat for beat, Despicable Me 2 finds a way to charm you. Yes, you guessed it; it’s mostly down to the little yellow dudes.

The film revels in the slapstick style of humour that the minions partake in, and the numerous skits that the scene-stealing critters supply. Not a stone throw away from the styling of Looney Tunes, the minions continue to provide the best moments and best gags, particularly for the viewers above the age of 8. The colourful design and bright, zippy, pacing also help to maintain interest, but there is still something definitely lacking from this franchise.

Despicable Me 2 is like taking a sip from a cup of tea with one too many sugars in it. Warm, familiar, and perfectly satisfactory, but just that bit too sweet for your taste. The script lacks depth and does feel somewhat patronising, lacking the smarts of Pixar, an animation company who always treats its young audience with a deal of intelligence and respect. While the design is colourful and certainly unique, it lacks refinement and is somewhat crude.

I personally prefer my animated movies with a bit more sophistication. Despicable Me 2, whilst lacking that, does make up for it with giddy, ridiculous, charm. It is not afraid to embrace its own special brand of silliness, something that a lot of the more ‘sophisticated’ animated films tend to avoid. It is unique in that respect, embracing a bygone style of comedy and letting its audience ride on its bright and joyful spirit. An easy-going and undemanding feel-good experience.

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