Year of Release: 2013 Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elise Fisher, Benjamin Bratt, and Russell Brand.
The success of the original Despicable Me can be mostly attributed to two factors: the cute and touching relationship between super villain Gru and his adopted daughters, and more importantly, the goofy, subservient minions. The relationship between Gru and the girls is still developed and forms a decent part of the sequel, even though it was more important in the original film. And the minions are back in spades.
Steve Carell reprises his role as Gru, no longer a villain, adjusting to life as a good guy and as a father. He has turned his laboratory into a jelly making factory. However, his longtime associate Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) feels unfit for this line of work and quits to take up a new job offer where he can be evil again. Meanwhile Gru’s neighbors and his daughters are encouraging him to get married and setting him up on blind dates so the girls can have a mother, even though Gru has no interest in tying the knot with anyone.
When Anti-Villain League (AVL) agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, in a much funnier role than the mean Miss Hattie in the original) kidnaps Gru in order for him to help the AVL with a top secret assignment, he is reluctant to accept, but changes his mind after Dr. Nefario quits and the jelly business goes awry. Gru’s assignment is to find the villain who stole an arctic laboratory where a serum was being developed to turn innocent creatures into brutal, invincible killers.
While searching for the serum and for the thief, sparks begin to fly between Gru and Lucy to the delight of Agnes, (Elsie Fisher) while Edith (Dana Gaier) routinely says “Ew” at any sight of romance. Edith’s protestations form comic relief as Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) strikes up a relationship with a boy whose father may or may not be a former nemesis of Gru’s.
The story is fairly formulaic for a family film, and there are a couple places where it lags. In recent action flicks from this summer, lags in storytelling have been masked by noisy explosions and fight scenes. Despicable Me 2 has a much more welcome and enjoyable approach to insert energy into the story the few times that it stalls: add comic relief via the minions. Hardly five minutes pass without some sort of their antics. There are a couple times when one could almost say there is too much of the minions, but they are so much fun that their frequent presence seems justified. The minions do feature prominently in the story’s climax, which ties together and explains the earlier segments that featured them.
After my screening was over, some children were already quoting some of the minions’ funniest lines as they exited the theatre. I imagine parents will be listening to many scenes reenacted for days.
There are a couple subtle references to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which is always a good path for a comedy to go. At Agnes’ birthday party, a group of minions dress up as bumbling incompetent knights and wreck havoc on the proceedings. A surveillance video of a science lab shows a harmless rabbit transforming into a vicious killer, recalling the Rabbit of Caerbannog. The entire concept of the serum is based on the same humorous principle of the killer rabbit: a cute innocent creature is somehow made a monster. In both films the monster is stopped by a ludicrous weapon as well. A chicken also serves as a fierce guard.
Co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud studied what worked in their first film, they repeat it here, and it still works well. As of right now, another sequel/spinoff is in the works. Instead of being titled Despicable Me 3, its current title is Minions. As longs as the screenwriters can keep coming up with decent minion jokes, which is not that hard given their inherent goofiness and cuteness, the franchise will continue with decently entertaining films.
Content Advisory: Occasional rude humor and mild peril. MPAA rating: PG
Suggested Audience: Kids and up.
Personal Recommendation: B