Despicable Me 2 Spoiler-Free Review
Reviewed by Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
“Gru’s back in the game with cool cars, gadgets, and weapons” – Gru.
Not many animations survive a second outing; Toy Story is the epitome of how to do it properly and Shrek just about pulled it off (by the skin of its teeth) and now Despicable Me, which is verging on becoming a franchise, has achieved this remarkable feat. The digimation starring everyone’s favourite reformed supervillian returns with an amiable sequel that even succeeds in topping its antecedent.
One of my main criticisms of contemporary animations nowadays is that they are always tremendously overlong; Despicable Me 2 on the other hand is succinct, incisive and concise, even allowing itself time to sidetrack away from the principal narrative. By the end I felt like it was undercut and far too short given the bloated, two-hour plus blockbusters that we see so much of in our cinemas. Despicable Me 2 is easily censurable for being ephemeral, an unprecedented criticism in 2013.
Gru, our beaky protagonist (former antagonist) is now a round-the-clock father, dealing with his three winsome adoptees: the streetwise Margo, the wannabe ninja Edith and “its so fluffy I’m gonna die!” Agnes. The latter trio don’t get in the way too much but they can occasionally feel rather intrusive to the ongoing narrative. Agnes is still the cutest, running around spewing adorable one-liners and marvelling at everything, although she is considerably more grown up than in the first film. Gru’s sluggish right hand-man, Dr. Nefario is bustled off in a rather perfunctory manner for the majority of the film and his presence is missed whilst Julie Andrews’ Marlena, the thoughtless mother of Gru, doesn’t return in a speaking capacity.
Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig voices Lucy Wilde, the overenthusiastic and happy-go-lucky agent assigned, as Gru’s partner-in-crime. Wilde is presented as the last-mentioned villain’s love interest and their burgeoning romance is handled carefully and gratifyingly, considering Despicable Me 2 is a kids’ film. Wiig clearly revels in the role; a break from more serious parts, and Steve Carell is much the same as the mixed European superdad.
Gru’s henchmen, the pill-shaped ‘Minions’ are one of the core reasons for the Despicable Me series’ success. Their jejune shenanigans and puerile antics are consistently amusing, and unlike the ‘penguins of Madagascar’ (the cynical, anthropomorphic gentooes of the Madagascar trilogy) they don’t get old. Although they display the intelligence of a buffoonish child and only communicate via nonsensical jabbering, the Minions are a gag that we won’t get tired of any time soon. My main concern for them is that they’re getting their own spinoff flick: Minions with them as the leading players. I wonder how they will support an entire movie alone.
When I first saw Despicable Me I remember being distinctly unimpressed and multiple re-watches have allowed a change of heart but one of my chief criticisms of the first movie was that it had forgettable and boring villain. Despicable Me 2 walks right back into this pitfall and I was bored witless by Benjamin Bratt’s unmotivated quasi-Mexican villain, Eduardo. His plan is clichéd and groundless and Eduardo is portrayed as nothing more than a potbellied blockhead. Like Jason Segel’s Vector of the first film, Eduardo is nothing more than a platitudinous and dull baddie but then I suppose that’s the point.
In conclusion, Despicable Me 2 is discerned as a hugely enjoyable and serviceable animation with zealous vocal performances from Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Russell Brand. My only quibble would be that a few of the characters are unnecessarily underused and the villain is ridiculously under-developed. The Minions are still going strong and I await Despicable Me 2’s sister film with bated breath.