After making a boatload of cash that would make any world class villain drool, on the first film, Universal set up plans to crank out a Despicable Me sequel because it made great business sense. As a fan of the first movie and its premise about a tender-hearted villain named Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell), I was mildly excited at the notion of joining him and his Cheeto-shaped minions for another go around.
As is par for the course where kid-centric CGI cartoons are concerned the sequel tends to focus much more on the ancillary characters that people found delightful during the first film. For example, Cars 2 based an entire movie around Mater, with disastrous results. So, it’s really no surprise when you find out that Despicable Me 2 is extremely heavy on minion humor. You know, the little yellow guys that follow Gru’s every command, speak gibberish, and on the whole are just about the cutest little animated cheese puffs ever. Yeah, those guys.
I was prepared to give myself up to a movie that relegated Gru to the background while trying to highlight as much minion frivolity as can possibly be contained in 90 minutes. So, it was a welcome sight when the movie started and Gru’s character development took center stage right alongside all the added minion-themed humor. Gru’s daughters, however, are left somewhat on the backburner.
Because of the girl’s influence Gru has given up his life of villainous crime and has turned over a new leaf. Instead of devising plans to steal the moon, Gru has resigned himself to inventing “tasty jams and jellies.” That is until an entire top-secret lab is stolen from Antarctica. Gru is called in by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to help apprehend the culprit before they can use the secret serum that was stored at the facility.
In the first movie Gru was happy with his villainy until he met Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier) and Agnes (voiced by Elsie Kate Fisher). He realized something was missing in his life and the girls filled it for him. This time around Gru is looking for love, which explains the introduction of Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig), a special agent from AVL. Together they work to try and apprehend the super-villain responsible for the laboratory theft.
The story runs into a few snags here and there, specifically with its portrayal of a couple grossly over exaggerated racial stereotypes. There’s a character named Floyd who runs a wig shop, who embodies every over-the-top Chinese merchant cliché that we’ve ever seen. Of course the character is voiced by Ken Jeong, right? Thankfully those unfortunate aspects of the movie are few.
The middle of the movie drags a little too much. It gets bogged down in trying to make sense of its story, it forgets about Gru’s sweet little girls, and focuses a bit too much on Gru’s would-be romance with Lucy.
Gru’s minions do take a bigger role in this movie and actually factor into the grand scheme. They provide a great amount of slapstick humor with their oddball antics. Somehow, even though they speak in their own language, kids seem to know exactly what they’re saying. As far as audience laughter goes, most everyone in the screening I attended spent most of the time laughing.
Despicable Me 2 is a comparable experience with the recently released Monsters University. It’s a group of beloved characters, a simple story, and a comical way to spend an hour and a half. Unlike many of the films in theaters right now, this is one the entire family can – and probably will – enjoy.