Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

Here’s the second of two quick-fire animated movie reviews!

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Starring:
Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand
Director:
Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud (Despicable Me)
Rating: PG
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What’s not to like about the Despicable Me set-up? The first film was regularly hilarious, unexpectedly heartwarming and packed some impressive visual tricks. It stands as one of my all time favourite animated movies to this day and I’ve seen it quite a few times. So when I heard there would be a sequel directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, the same two people at the helm of the original, needless to say I was pretty excited. While the sequel doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of the first movie, it contains enough laughs and charm to come with a recommendation from yours truly.

If you’ve seen any of the marketing material for this film, chances are the infamous minions from the first Despicable Me featured pretty heavily in those materials. Most of the different one-sheets and posters floating around the place don’t even feature the main characters, such is the popularity of the adorable and bumbling yellow critters. Their presence in Despicable Me 2 reflects this somewhat, as there is a definite increase in their general screen time and they even feature more prominently in the plot this time around. This has its pros and cons. For one, they’re still as funny as ever, especially when they appear in large numbers, and the fact that they are set to appear in their own movie next year is a testament to that.

On the other hand, however, the kind of slapstick humour they deliver is kind of one-note in nature. Once you’ve seen a handful of their style of offbeat gags, you’ve seen them all, and only one or two of the instances of minion hi-jinks in this movie is anything other than predictable. Cast your mind back to where the first movie’s humour came from and you’ll find a number of sources, from Gru’s unusual physical capabilities and unique weapons to Jason Segel‘s cocky villain to the over-enthusiasm of the orphan children. Here most of the comedic lifting is left solely to the little overalled creatures, which can be a good or bad thing depending on where you stand on their appeal. It doesn’t help that quite a few of the script’s jokes, whatever source they come from, revisit territory from the first film. Things don’t quite feel as fresh.

This does leave room for Steve Carell to give a heartfelt performance as protagonist Gru, though, who has gone from doing outrageously villainous things to dealing with the difficulties of foster fatherhood to Margo, Edith and Agnes. A lot of the film’s tension comes from these struggles rather than from external sources. The main new addition to the cast is Lucy, a new recruit to the elitist Anti-Villain League voiced by Kristen Wiig (who was actually part of the voice cast in the original), and she provides our anti-hero with an unlikely love interest.

With the possible exception of Dr Nefario (Russell Brand), each member of the major cast gets a decent chunk of screentime and is handled well. Agnes continues to provide cute points while Edith’s tomboyishness has taken on a Japanese otaku flavour, but it is the normally naggy Margo who has the most enjoyable character arc as she discovers the boy band charms of a local Mexican kid. Pharrell Williams returns for the soundtrack, which manages to be even better than that of the original, with a wider range of easy listening tracks.

Despicable Me 2 proves to be a pretty decent animated comedy. It may rely a little heavily on one kind of joke, but the laughs come so frequently it hardly matters. It also has charm and heart to spare. If you enjoyed the first one, give the sequel a look.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Constant barrage of laughs, well-handled principle cast, smooth soundtrack
Bad:
Retreads ground from the first film, minion saturation
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3.5 VsG !

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