Despicable Me 2

Directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Starring:  Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, and Ken Jeong

As the only mom on the STMR staff, I often get saddled with the animated fare (i.e. Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, The Croods, and Monsters University).  You name the animated flick, and I have seen it.  Although I am slightly bitter about being dumped into the mommy movie review bucket, I certainly bring a different perspective: as a critic, as a movie-lover, a mom, and a person who is entrenched in Pixar, Disney-fare.  I am happy to report that, comparatively speaking, Despicable Me 2 is a fun film with a little something for adults and children.

Gru (Steve Carell), a former super villain, has left his evil ways behind and settled into suburban life, raising three young girls: Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).  Gru has traded world domination plots for a life as Mr. Mom, throwing parties for little girls.  He even has his countless minions and his scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) working on jelly recipes to start a jelly/jam selling business. Although he is happy raising the girls, Gru is missing the excitement of his former life and he is also hopelessly single.

Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) enters in the midst of Gru’s midlife crisis.  Lucy is an agent with the Anti-Villain League.  The AVL does not care about bank robbers and murderers.  They specialize in thwarting super villains.  Recently, someone used a giant magnet to steal a secret laboratory which was harvesting a dangerous chemical.  When injected, this chemical causes violent mutations.  The AVL has found traces of the chemical at a local mall, and they believe that someone at the mall is planning some devious attack.

Lucy and the head of the AVL, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), recruit Gru as they believe his past evil behavior will enable Gru to identify the dastardly villain who has stolen the chemical weapon.  Gru and Lucy go undercover as owners of a cupcake shop at the mall.  Gru is then forced to juggle parenthood, a new love interest and spy work in this fun sequel.

Despicable Me 2 is a fun, quirky film that has something for children and adults.  I had the “pleasure” of viewing the film with a ton of kids, including multiple summer camp groups.  The minions’ slapstick comedy and antics drew squeals and laughter from kids of all ages.  The minions were a delight and even performed a hilarious rendition of “I Swear.” (With the Backstreet Boys cameo in This is The End and the minions’ All 4 One cover, it definitely seems that pop boy bands are a new gag). 

Additionally, the voiceover actors are spot on, and deliver smart dialogue and colorful characters.  Steve Carell is firing on all cylinders as super villain turned super dad Gru.  Carell infuses Gru with the same dry wit and humor from the original film and it works.  Gru is lovable and relatable. While Gru is happy with his family, it is understandable why he misses the excitement and adventure of his former profession. It is akin to married persons or parents reminiscing about the days when they were less encumbered and free to be selfish. 

The film, however, is not without its flaws.  Unfortunately Despicable Me 2 is a little too shallow in some respects.  Yes, it is an animated film, but it does hint at some larger issues (i.e. the girls’ desire for a mother figure, Gru’s discomfort with the opposite sex, etc.).  However, the film only addresses the issues on a superficial level.  In addition, the villain is underdeveloped.  Benjamin Bratt does a fine job replacing Al Pacino, but the character is simply uninteresting and not a smart enough or evil enough villain to be really memorable.  Nor is the villain given enough screen time or back story to make him or his plot compelling.  The primary villain in the film is simply uninspired.

In terms of recent animated fare, I found Despicable Me 2 to be more creative and funnier than Monsters University, but the latter did a better job with character and plot development. 
All in all, Despicable Me 2 is a colorful, entertaining film that can be enjoyed by the whole family.  Despicable Me 2 earns a very strong 0.06% rating.  Adults can have a beer with this one.