As the Summer releases keep coming, I find that it’s healthy to devote some time to films that make a departure from the typical blockbuster explosion-fests. Family friendly animated films as well as the occasional comedy provide a good antidote, but such examples are exceptionally hit-or-miss in terms of quality. As a fan of the original Despicable Me, I was curious to see where the franchise would go. Unfortunately, the creative team did’t seem to have much of an idea either.
Directed by Pierre Coffin, the film follows in the footsteps of Monsters University and continues the trend of animated films with the least necessary sequels. Be that as it may, Coffin certainly knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating a visually engaging and dense world. Writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, on the other hand, have taken some seriously heavy inspiration (read: ripped off) Pixar’s 2011 film Cars 2. Apparently, the go-to plot line for animated films with work-shy creative teams now involves espionage.
Actors Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, and Russell Brand reprise their vocal roles from the first film and are joined by Kristen Wiig as spunky love interest Lucy Wilde and Benjamin Bratt as luchador-style baddie El Macho. All of the voice actors are expertly cast, and bring a real sense of vitality to the film. From Carell’s hapless and often confounded Gru to Bratt’s swaggering, domineering El Macho, the actors and a measure of charisma to the film that it would have sorely lacked otherwise.
The striking thing about the film is that it is almost exclusively for children, but that’s not necessarily the criticism that it sounds like. I can say definitively that the film knows it’s audience, with most of the humor deriving from the adorably low-brow antics of the minions. Their made-up language and constant slapstick may be a hit with the kids, but might might not find purchase with older audience members who expect some of the same wit that was present in abundance in the original Despicable Me.
Likewise, the film is almost unbearably cute in parts and might come across as uncomfortably saccharine to us jaded folk. Such a degree of sugar coating, if you will, is of course aimed at the kids, but Despicable Me 2 also incorporates a love story, bizarrely enough, which I would wager the aforementioned children wouldn’t find particularly interesting. My question is this: Who is all of this for? There are certainly few laughs to be found for the adults, and the shoehorned relationship drama almost came across as pandering.
Nevertheless, Despicable Me 2 is, indeed, a departure from the action-saturated blockbusters of today. It’s delightful to look at and genuinely charming in places, but if you’re in it strictly for the story or the comedy, the affair will quickly start to feel like a drag. If nothing else, Despicable Me 2 will put you in a good mood, and for that, I’ll allow it to slip by with a recommendation.
Rating: 3 out of 5