Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Movie Review: DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal, 2013)

If Universal execs truly were crazy when they made the decision to sequelize DESPICABLE ME, then they must be giggling insanely as they haul bags of cash to the bank.  DM2 has been crushing the cinematic competition at the box office during the Fourth of July period.  Well done, Universal; you have proven me wrong... up to a point.  Now, do all of us who have enjoyed this little franchise a big favor and STOP RIGHT HERE.  And, yes, that includes those plans for a Minion movie.  DM2 may be a huge hit, but it's also honeycombed with plot difficulties and, at times, seems more like an elaborate excuse to showcase the Minions than a substantial movie in its own right.



The idea of ex-villain Gru (Steve Carell) being recruited by an "Anti-Villain League" to sniff out a new (or IS he new??) supervillain is a perfectly acceptable springboard for an action-filled plot.  It's therefore surprising that DM2 hardly DOES anything substantial with the idea.  The "AVL" seems to consist of only two people (snooty head Silas Ramsbottom and enthusiastic newbie agent Lucy Wilde), and our ultimate bad guy gets amazingly little screen time.  You don't get the impression that the "threat to the world" is anything to lose sleep over, even vicariously.  Add to that the fact that the supervillain's plot simply consists of turning the Minions into purple, caffeine-jagged, and decidedly inept monsters, and it's clear that the movie's priorities lie elsewhere... namely, with the antics of the Minions and the growing relationship between Gru and agent-partner Lucy.  The latter is the best part of the movie, with Christine Wiig giving an energetic and extremely funny performance that complements Gru's generally saturnine personality.  Gru's three adopted daughters are a larger presence than I had feared they would be, with Margo developing a crush on a suave Hispanic boy and Agnes... well, being cute, but "middle child" Edith gets almost no attention whatsoever, apart from occasional demonstrations of junior karate and nunchuk moves.  (Jan Brady would certainly sympathize.)  All else is subordinated to lengthy bouts of Minionism, some of which seem to have been thrust into the movie with no purpose whatsoever.  What was the point of including that party sequence in which the Minions are pigging out on ice cream?  At least the "Cinco de Mayo" party sequence helped moved the plot along.  I am afraid that the Minions are one of those ideas that works well in small doses but gets more and more irritating with increased exposure.  How the little yellow buggers could possibly sustain a movie all by themselves is beyond me, but, evidently, Universal is preparing to find out.  Let's hope that the experiment doesn't result in the cinematic equivalent of PX-41.

The "importance of family" theme that gave the silliness of the original DESPICABLE ME a welcome dose of pathos and realism is still on display in DM2, but the execution of the theme is somewhat cruder.  I had a particularly hard time buying Dr. Nefario's switches of loyalty.  OK, so he decides to return to Gru's side because he wants nothing to happen to his old "family," which, I presume, would include the Minions... but he had no problem turning the Minions into monsters in the first place?? At least Gru and family wind up in "happy ending" territory, and there I hope they remain.  I would like to retain positive memories of these characters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Chris. I've seen "Despicable Me 2" and on the whole I liked it. The fact that it is not just a rehash of the storyline of the first film is a point in the second film's favor. And like you, I like the character of Lucy. At first the viewer may think she's rather silly, but she turns out to be pretty capable at what she does.

The way the film spoofs the James Bond movies, and the British TV series "The Avengers" (John Steed & Tara King & "Mother") is fun. And did you notice who was there at the wedding at the end? I spotted Gru's Mother, Gru's neighbor, and Mr. Ramsbottom in the final scenes.

But one thing in this film did annoy me. The reappearance of the Fart Gun. In Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" Mike the supercomputer is told that there are two kinds of jokes. One is funny all the time. The second is funny once due to surprise, but not funny a second time. Use such a joke once and you're a wit; use it twice and you're a half-wit.

But I still like "Despicable Me 2."