By Ed Sum
Let’s face it, the big reason why the Despicable Me franchise is successful is because of all those Minions, all 101 of them with Phil, Kevin and Dave being the most prominent. Well that is not the exact number because they multiply fast. They are just as cute as those Dalmatians, however they are more like the Martians from Toy Story, ooohing and aahing at everything they encounter.
And these characters do not disappoint in their hilarious hi-jinks. In fact, they even outdo the Penguins of Madagascar as great comedic teams. Fans of slapstick will no doubt be looking forward to the Minion movie, due in theaters Dec 2014, more than the Penguins, due in 2015.
In Despicable Me 2, they have all flocked to work for Gru (Steve Carell) like lemmings with a renewed purpose. He is no longer a bad guy and he seems to be settling in quite well to domestic life … or not. Audiences soon learn that a nosy neighbour, Jillian, is trying to set him up with one of her many girlfriends. That is simply none of her business and Gru is largely annoyed. This introduction sets the rest of the film into motion. Soon, the Anti-Villian League (AVL) ‘recruits’ him to go find a mysterious new villain. Despite some reluctance, he’s paired up with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), an agent, to discover this new threat’s whereabouts.
Soon, the movie becomes reminiscent of two other spy dramas coming head-to-head, namely Austin Powers and Chuck. When much of Gru’s despot nature gone, he is not as interesting to watch. He now needs a purpose to fulfill, and it takes the goading of his youngest daughter to realize what he must do to find happiness. Even the kids, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Faier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) do not get the screen time they deserve. Because this movie is focusing on showing where Gru’s life will go, this sequel doesn’t quite have the same spark as before.
The character of Gru is far more interesting when he’s out to cause malcontent. Much of the transformation he makes at being despised to loved was at the heart of the first film. In the second, the tale shifts to him dealing with life as a dad than in doing good like a super spy. Viewers may well have been wanting to see him dealing with better threats than in what was presented in this film–namely the boys Margo is seen constantly texting and his own heart a fluttering when he is at work.
The balance between the multiple subplots feels off and if there is ever such an underutilized character, that would be with Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) desiring to do “evil.” But what is it? With a world not even filled with supermen, just who these bad guys fight really has to be asked. Next to the Minions, he may be the next holdout from the first movie who has never changed.
And much like the first film’s positive message, Nefario shows that it’s best not to mess with those he cares about. Even though he desires to be evil, the good in him ultimately wins out. As for how, that’s best left for audiences to discover for themselves. Ultimately, this film is good for repeating the values presented from the first film. To discover where it is in the second just requires mining it out in all the rubble.
Maybe, in this case, those buckets of rock might end up looking like buckets of little minions. The toy soldiers do need someone to fight after all.
3½ Stars out of 5