Despicable Me 2 reaches Minion-sized heights
The surprising smash success of Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me in 2010 (owing in no small part to the crowd-pleasing antics of its pint-sized Minions) meant that a sequel could only be around the nearest corner. Three years later, that corner has been turned with the original writing, directing and voice talent team all remaining intact. Yet, despite all the creative pieces being firmly in place, Despicable Me 2 suffers from stagnation and unaspiring storytelling.
Steve Carell again brings baddie-gone-good Gru’s robust frame to life as the film picks up with his new crime-free fatherhood in full swing. Though Gru maintains an edge, the wickedly delicious anti-hero vibe is entirely lost. That may be where Despicable Me 2 begins to falter, but there are bigger issues here. Where the original excelled narratively was in exploring Gru’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, proceeding to build the entire story off those traits before allowing for the unlikely hero to conquer his shortcomings. Here, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio return to the psychological well only to find it has gone bone dry. The subplot delving into Gru’s lack of success with the ladies feels forced and doesn’t convince. That may be forgivable given a compelling central thread, but sadly, the Who-Dunnit plot doesn’t pack much of a punch. What’s more frustrating is that the vast potential for an exciting, hilarious mystery is readily apparent; but rather than capitalise on its momentum, the wheels quickly fall off leaving Despicable Me 2 to drag along to its foregone conclusions. Where the script does succeed is in introducing a new central character, Anti Villains League agent Lucy Wilde (voiced by a returning Kristen Wiig). Lucy proves an excellent complement for Gru and provides instant likability. Between her, the Minions’ sufficiently silly slapstick, and a vengeful portion of poultry, there’s just enough to make Despicable Me 2 passable despite its failings.
Of course, Despicable Me 2 is first and foremost, a children’s movie. As such, it is sure to amuse and entertain even if there is a strong sense of been-there-done-that. For the Pixar-lovers in the crowd, there’s definitely a fart joke or two too many in place of clever, well written humour, but that’s unlikely to create a stink amongst the target audience. Visually, Despicable Me 2 is an aesthetic blast full of vibrant colours filling a rich, attention-grabbing world. The 3D adds a pleasant level of depth, even if efforts to exploit the gimmick fall somewhat flat.
It was never going to be easy for Despicable Me 2 to top the original, but it’s unfortunate that this film reeks of creative complacency. There is joy and laughter to be had, but so little of it feels fresh or engaging. Recent news of a Minion spin-off may please some, however, based on Despicable Me 2, it remains to be seen whether or not the filmmakers have any creative juice left to pump into those cute, but seemingly limited creatures. As it stands, Despicable Me 2 is harmless, toothless fun. While a perfectly acceptable film, it is hard to not feel disappointed by how low Gru’s second outing aims to reach. 6/10