Despicable Me 2, another rousing success with theaters, earning over $900 million worldwide. Not bad, huh? That's the movie. Not bad, but missing something.
Having moved on from his career one of Earth's super villains, Gru (voice of Steve Carell) lives happily at home now with his three adopted daughters and his small army of Minions. Well, his peaceful little life is about to be thrown for a loop. Gru is approached by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) because an unknown super villain has stolen a substance capable of turning even the most peaceful creature into an unstoppable monsters. Their only clue? The villain has been tracked to a mall and owns a store somewhere in it. With the help of an AVL agent, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), Gru sets up shop in the mall -- with the help of the Minions -- as a bakery owner. Which one of the eccentric store owners could be this mysterious super villain? There's too many choices so where to even start?
The original Despicable Me was a very pleasant surprise for me as I enjoyed the voice casting, the visual look, the generally different tone of your typical animated movie, and of course....the Minions. Because I did enjoy the original, I was psyched to see this follow-up as well. My first reaction? It's good, but definitely missing something. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud return to helm the sequel, still visually appealing with the same goofy, dark sense of humor. It's still a super villain with three adopted daughters, a cross-breed(ish) dog, hundreds of little minions, an assistant, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and another goofy plot to control the world. It's not as good as the original -- more specifics later -- but there's still enough on display to see it. If you liked the original, you'll enjoy this sequel.
What isn't in question is the abundant voice talent assembled here. From Gru's distinct look -- bald head, thick trunk, chicken legs -- to his uniquely villainous voice (I'm thinking some sort of Eastern European), Carell does a great job again as the bad guy turned Dad good guy. It's weird to say there's character development in an animated series, but we see a highly protective Gru watching over his adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and the youngest and cutest, Agnes (Elsie Fisher). Still a pretty good part leading the way. We also see a budding relationship with Wiig's Lucy, basically the perfect foil to Gru. She's goofy, moves non-stop and her Olive Oyl physique is certainly a good visual. Wiig provided her voice in the original, but is playing a different part here. Brand is underused as Dr. Nefarious, Gru's loyal and longtime assistant who's disappointed they're not up to any evil plots to rule the world.
Who else to look and listen for? Benjamin Bratt has a fun part as El Macho, the owner of a Mexican restaurant in the mall whose personality is as big as his rather rotund frame. Moises Arias plays Antonio, El Macho's son interested in Margo. Also returning from the original except with a new character is Ken Jeong as a wig salesman in the mall. Steve Coogan does a good job too as Lucy's AVL boss, Silas Ramsbottom, or as Gru calls him, Sheepbutt (like it matters).
As for the Minions, they're better than ever. The short, stocky little yellow creatures decked out in overalls and goggles are good for a laugh -- at the minimum -- every time they're on the screen. Coffin and Renaud (also voicing the little guys) are no dummies. They know as good as Gru's story is with the kids, people want to see the Minions. So what's new to the cute little yellow guys? We get to meet more of them by name, get to see some more personality. The high points? The Minions dress up as the Village People and karaoke YMCA, host a rave-like ice cream party, show off their housekeeping, firefighting and para-sailing abilities. They're just fun, producing the movie's best laughs by far. As I mentioned in my first review, I'm psyched for a Minions spinoff, scheduled for a 2015 release.
It's by no means a bad movie, just not as good as the first one. '2' takes too long revealing the villain, and in the meantime is too schizophrenic for its own good. We deal with Minions being kidnapped, Nefario leaving for a new job, Gru and Lucy, the girls, especially Margo, and the whole point kinda gets lost in the shuffle. It isn't as adult-oriented as some animated movies try to be as well. Is it good? Yes, but I didn't love it. On the other hand, Gru's explanation of a rival villain's epic death -- jumping out of a plane and riding a shark into an erupting volcano, thousands of pounds of dynamite strapped to the villain -- was one of those perfectly goofy moments. I just wish there were more of those, more laughs in general.
Despicable Me 2 (2013): ** 1/2 /****