Release date: 20th June 2013
Director: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand
Review by Peter Gray
In another case of a major studio fast-tracking a sequel that isn’t entirely necessary, ‘Despicable Me 2’ arrives in cinemas in a perfectly acceptable, though pointless fashion. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the second outing of former super villain Gru (voiced ever so wonderfully by Steve Carell), indeed you can tell from the outset how much heart has been put into the film, it’s just that overall there isn’t anything new brought to the table, though I imagine the target audience won’t find that an issue as the filmmakers (Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud) have packed the film to the brim with colourful physical comedy and an abundance of little Minions.
For the uninitiated (though I doubt audiences unfamiliar with the original will be present here) the Minions are a series of cheeky and chatty yellow-skinned creations that have the appearance of a Kinder surprise egg, with the addition of arms and legs, who somehow all have their own personality despite their talk being completely undecipherable and their individual appearances only differing slightly. They managed to steal focus every chance they got in the original and here their presence is heightened; the production team clearly realising their popularity and banking on them to do the same. Outside of their comic relief, there’s a story of sorts with Gru now living somewhat of a domesticated existence following his renouncement of being a villain (the first film saw him attempt to steal the moon) and playing doting dad to his adopted daughters Edith (Dana Gaier), Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) and the particularly adorable Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Keeping him busy when he’s not being pursued by the local horde of single women in his neighbourhood and playing dress up at birthday parties (an early sequence sees him dolled up as a fairy), Gru and his Minions focus on another lucrative business – jam making. Overseeing production is Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), Gru’s former partner in crime who still has a taste for evil but not for “Gru’s signature jams and jellies”.
When Nafario admits to yearning for a taste of evil again, Gru questions his existence and so it seems like fate when he is tracked down by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), an agent with the Anti-Villains League who has specifically sought him out to find El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), a Mexican heavy who has resurfaced after his supposed demise via riding a shark into a volcano and has set up shop in a heavily populated mall. From here on out it’s a fairly typical ride as Gru hopes to bring El Macho to justice all the while fighting off his feelings for Lucy, and the Minions attempting to help which leads them to playing an unlikely part in El Macho’s world domination plan. As said before the film is a perfectly acceptable outing, and will most likely be adored by the youngsters its targeting through the school holiday period, but compared to the original you can’t help but feel a little disappointed as the shine that appeared so glossy in part 1 appears to have lost some of its clarity here.
The main culprit is the story which doesn’t hold enough weight to sustain the interest of the older audiences and seeing as how the Minions are rolled out at every opportunity, it would appear the lack of a strong plot is a known factor, however to be fair the Minions are particularly funny and the film is indeed better for having them involved. As for the voice cast, it’s a successful venture yet you can’t help but feel all the talent involved belong in a stronger production. Carell has the thick European drawl of Gru down pat and he manages to bring a wonderful sense of warmth to the character, whilst the barely recognisable Brand proves he knows restraint with his surprisingly likeable pensioner Nefario. Wiig, who provided her vocals in the original film but to a different character, brings her usual sense of nervous energy to the character of Lucy and many a time I found it hard not to see her when looking at the character, but I think that made me enjoy her presence even more as Wiig is effortlessly humorous and she manages to elevate the character to a further enjoyable level. The character of El Macho is perhaps one of the weakest links in the chain as he doesn’t hold enough bite for a villain, but that isn’t a fault on Bratt’s half. Interestingly this part was originally set for Al Pacino who exited the production citing ‘creative differences’ despite finishing all the recordings of his lines.
The animation is wonderfully lush, and in 3D even more so, and there’s still plenty of laughs to be had by all involved – the most well received perhaps being the closing number of ‘YMCA’ from the Minions, it’s just when held against the original you can’t help but see the missed opportunity ‘Despicable Me 2’ ultimately ends up being. Despite this it’s still a sweet and safe outing that provides the right amount of entertainment for its core audience, and will tide them over in time for the Minions own film out next year.
My rating 3/5 (Plays a bit too safe)