Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Review: "Despicable Me 2"
The first “Despicable Me” was a bit of a disappointment to me, mostly because I liked the idea of an animated world dominated by super-villains, unencumbered by drippy do-gooders. Of course, the entire story arc was about dastardly scientist Gru learning to find his inner daddy instincts as he adopts three adorable little girls -- trading death rays for unicorns, so to speak.
With "Despicable Me 2," we're already past the hump of Gru's transformation: he's a good guy now, retired from the world domination shtick. His vast underground lair, populated by yellow stump-like minions chattering incoherently, has been given over to producing "delicious jams and jellies."
But then he's recruited by the Anti-Villain League, a global spy agency fighting baddies like his former self. They want Gru to find out which of his ex-colleagues has stolen PX-41, a serum that turns anyone injected with it into an indestructible purple rage monster.
Gru, again voiced with an enthusiastic Slavic dialect by Steve Carell, relishes the chance to get back into the game. Turns out the jam thing wasn't working out -- his ancient assistant (Russell Brand) quit, and even the minions thought the stuff tasted horrid.
It's a whole lot of slapsticky action, mostly involving those minions, some gastrointestinal humor and even a side plot about his oldest daughter (Miranda Cosgrove) having a love interest. Gru does not take well to the idea of suitors, but look at from the boy's perspective: your sweetie's dad resembles a Bond villain.
Of course, Gru's got his own thing with the ladies going on. Kristen Wiig voices Lucy, a junior AVL agent who approaches absolutely everything with over-the-top enthusiasm. She's assigned to be his partner, and things start to get a little touchy-feely.
They set up shop as pretend bakers in a mall, where they start scouting out the fellow store proprietors as potential suspects. Gru insists the florid, hefty owner of a Mexican restaurant looks like El Macho, a villain thought dead after riding a rocket strapped to a shark into a volcano. (Like he said, macho.) But his opinion is dismissed by the League uppity-ups.
Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul have a lot of fun with this material, keeping it fast and loose. They keep returning to those crazy, gibberish-spouting minions -- which isn't a surprise since Coffin and Renaud supply the voices.
At one point the yellow guys start disappearing, fodder for inevitable experiments with the PX-41. Gru, distracted by the job, his girls and Lucy, doesn't notice at first: "We're going to have to revisit your guys' vacation time ... I can't find anyone lately!"
Visually the film features the same exaggerated biology and zippy action as last time. Lucy looks stretched out like a piece of taffy, and Gru is an amalgamation of round and sharp shapes, punctuated by that nose that could double as a shiv (and so inconvenient for kissing!). I'd advise skipping the 3-D upgrade, which exists only for a few moments of levity where stuff flies at the audience.
"Despicable Me" is essentially more of the same. It's light, amusing, rather unambitious, but agreeable.