Theatrical Release: July 3rd, 2013
Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Review by Richard Rey
Love is in the air in Despicable Me 2 and that means a whole lot of cute; unfortunately, it also means a whole lot of disappointment for the adults that enjoyed the dark antics of Gru in the original animated feature. The beaky super-villain voiced by Steve Carell is reduced to the role of overprotective father and wifeless loner in this follow-up to the 2010 release – everyone is trying to set him up, even Agnes who has come to realize that life isn’t the same without a mom. Sadly, Gru has already completed his transformation as proud patriarch by the time the movie starts so that the only humor we’re left with is a lot of slapstick involving those affable gibberish-ranting yellow things we’ve come to love. And that spells death to the direction that Dreamworks was initially taking the well-received Despicable franchise. It also means life (and more screen time) for the Minions who, unsurprisingly, will have a release of their own in 2014 (Minions).
Yet, in spite of the fact that the extreme makeover to the Despicable franchise is done with the precision of some of Hollywood’s hottest animated surgeons (directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) – who still manage to muster up an attractive summer flick – the bottom line is that the identity of the original is lost in translation. It’s almost as if we’ve arrived at the comedic battlegrounds too late to have witnessed the brunt of the laughs – not by hours but by weeks – which is extremely frustrating for fans since the world of Despicable 2 is a rainbow-pink daughterly scheme rather than the black palette of the children-hating baddie that we’ve grown so fond of.
This time around, Gru is recruited by the AVL (the Anti-Villain League ) – an association dedicated to taking out the world’s worst super-villains – to find out which store owner at the local mall is involved in the creation of a serum that turns normal bunny rabbits into purple bloodthirsty eating machines. Backup comes in the form of a goofy female partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig) who geeks out over the newest spy gizmos at her disposal for solving the case. In the midst of all of the mayhem, we see Gru’s overprotective nature as a father kick in which becomes the best running joke of the film – especially when one of his little girls starts to fall in love with a local “heartbreaker”.
However recycled the plot may be (ex-baddie recruited by FBI/CIA/police/AVL to help solve a case), it still allows for the themes of family and love to be brought, once again, to the silver screen; one scene on an airplane rings particularly true to romance when Gru’s crush realizes she’s fallen for him and starts to see his awkward-looking mug in the very magazine she’s thumbing through.
While this Despicable isn’t really all that despicable, it does make for a fun time, especially for children who will laugh and cheer at the slapstick and clowning on screen – most of the humor is visual. Overall, it’s a much safer, family friendly film that is sure to please diehard fans who will get to revisit the characters they’ve already fallen in love with. Admittedly, it doesn’t stay true to the dark originality of its predecessor but with this much cute going on, most viewers won’t mind at all.