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Film review: DESPICABLE ME 2, from Built For Speed

2010’s Despicable Me was a fun and sometimes genuinely funny computer-animated spy movie parody.  Amid all the typical frenzied sight gags was a touching story about the bald-headed, pointy-nosed, Russian-accented, kyphotic super-villain Gru (Steve Carrell) who was redeemed when he unexpectedly became a single dad to three cute little moppets.

In the clever, amusing but erratic sequel, Gru is trying to go straight and renounce his criminal past. When a mysterious fiend developes a serum that turns innocent creatures into ravenous monsters (no, it’s not grog) a secret government organisation named The Anti-Villain League calls upon Gru’s genius to combat the fiend before his monsters destroy civilization.  For the mission, Gru is paired with a loopy but attractive partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig).

Despicable Me 2 has most of the qualities that made number one such fun: cute quirky creatures and silly slapstick gags to amuse the kids, some clever perceptive humour to keep adults interested, amusing parodies of spy movies tropes (particularly the elaborate gadgets) and a likeable central character whose relationship with the three little girls is very endearing.

Unfortunately, apart from a sub-plot that has both Gru and daughter Margo each making clumsy forays into romance, number two doesn’t add a lot to the first instalment. Basically, it’s Gru battling another super villain and as in the first one, getting physically hurt a lot. The film also succumbs to that pitfall of contemporary animated films, over-reliance on loud manic sight gags.  Interestingly, at the heart of this strange sometimes violent fantasy is the conservative message that heterosexual marriage is the ultimate panacea for a society’s ills.

Still, it’s hard not to like this film.  Steve Carrell’s voice work is once again terrific as he makes the contemptuous Gru a likeable and funny anti-hero.  The ever-reliable Kristen Wiig’s quirky high-energy performance as Lucy is also a lot of fun.  Amanda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Kate Fisher are again funny and charming as the three little girls.  Russell Brand also returns as Gru’s chief scientist Dr Nefario who, amusingly, talks like an ageing English hard-man from a Guy Ritchie film.  Benjamin Bratt’s character, the rotund and effusive Mexican restaurant owner Eduardo, who works at the mall Gru and Lucy stake out is, however, an uncomfortable Hispanic stereotype.

While there are some visually stunning sequences, Despicable Me 2 isn’t quite in the same league as the classic Pixar or Dreamworks films in terms of cutting edge animation.

Despicable Me 2 is a middling and occasionally predictable piece of animated cinema but it’s perfectly agreeable holiday family fun.

 

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Release date: 20th June 2013

Running time:  98 mins.

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