Film review: Despicable Me 2

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Supervillains have more fun, and so does the audience, in the giddy sequel Despicable Me 2. Supervillains have more fun, and so does the audience, in the giddy sequel Despicable Me 2.

How does a reformed supervillain, Gru (Steve Carell), have anything to do in a sequel in which he’s not made the villain? Simple: He’s recruited by an international crime-fighting organization led by Silas Ramsbottom (ha, yeah; he’s played by Steve Coogan and resembles an obese James Fox) and partnered with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to stop someone from using a secret potion to turn the minions (the yellow guys who speak gibberish) into, effectively, purple people eaters. Plus, Gru’s daughters want him to fall in love.

It’s contrived, to be sure, but Despicable Me 2 is laugh-out-loud funny. There were a few times I laughed so loudly I was embarrassed. Best of all, one doesn’t need to be familiar with Despicable Me to enjoy its sequel (though you may wonder how Gru ended up the father of three little girls); Despicable Me 2 stands up pretty well on its own. For example, in the first film, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio don’t explain why Gru has the minions at his disposal. This time around there’s no explanation, either. The minions exist purely for comic relief (with a little light plot work), and it’s just as well.

As for the story, it’s an excuse to string together a series of one-liners and sights gags. As I chortled uncontrollably, I forgot that the plot is paper thin. Even the supervillain Gru is tasked with stopping is, as far as animated villains go, pretty harmless. He may or may not be someone from Gru’s past—it bears no relation to events of Despicable Me, so whatever—and Gru has to decide whether he wants to get involved in an attempt to halt the villain’s nefarious, but very funny, plans.

In addition to the world’s most vindictive chicken, Despicable Me 2 has great sight gags (including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plan to attack Hoboken, N.J.), and dialogue that’s absurd in the right way: “Looks like your date was shot with a mild moose tranquilizer,” and “They never found his body; just a pile of singed chest hair.”

And I keep bringing up the fact that there’s no need to have seen the first film because I hadn’t seen it when I watched Despicable Me 2. I went in blind and, yes, laughed to the point of embarrassment. (Afterward, at home, I ordered Despicable Me On Demand…and laughed hysterically. Good thing no one else was awake.)

There has been some grousing in other reviews that because Gru is no longer a villain, Despicable Me 2 just isn’t much fun. That’s not the case. Gru is driven by ego as much as anything, and ego doesn’t care whether you’re trying to be the best supervillain or the best narc. It just wants to be right.

The most charming thing about the Despicable Me series is that it’s so gleefully silly. Somewhere the non-sexist side of Benny Hill is smiling. Sit back. Enjoy. The 3D effects work well, and Pharell’s songs light up the soundtrack.

Despicable Me 2, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

 

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