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Despicable Me 2 (2013)

| July 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

It might be reasonable to approach “Despicable Me 2” with a sense of trepidation.  The original 2010 film was a sort-of enjoyable animated romp that wasn’t exactly screaming for a sequel.  That film, about the misadventures of a supervillain named Gru whose attempts to steal the moon were thwarted when he adopted three adorable orphan girls, was a cute but admittedly lackluster animated comedy.  The sequel is a nice surprise.  It’s better.  It opens up the idea and introduces a few new characters who give this (now) series a much-needed boost.

This time Gru (still voiced by Steve Carell) has given up his life of evil deeds (thereby negating the title) and opened his own business making jams and jellies.  He’s also a full-time dad.  As the movie opens, he’s suffering two hardships that every parent must eventually endure: First, the fairy princess that he hired won’t show up for the kid’s birthday party.  Second, the oldest girl is beginning to take a healthy interest in boys.

Gru’s kids, it can be happily reported, are only a sideline in this sequel.  The main plot involves Gru being called upon by the Anti-Villain League to help to figure out why an Arctic Research Station was pulled off its foundation and has gone missing.  Gru thinks that the villain might be the nefarious El Macho (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), a Mexican villain who is so tough that he once jumped out of the back of a plane while riding a shark strapped with dynamite.  This has to be seen to be believed.

The plot is a lot of fun mainly because the writers have decided this time around to stick heavily to the gags and pull back on the emotional stuff.  They’ve also given a lot room in the plot Gru’s little yellow minions, whose babbling speech and funny dress-ups have become so popular that they are getting their own origin story called “Minions” next Christmas.

The minions are cute, but the most joyous element to “Despicable Me 2” is the presence of AVL agent Lucy Wilde, a high-energy, skinny redhead whose bright personality gives this movie its legs.  Voiced by Kristen Wiig and looking a little big like Carol Burnett, Lucy is so much fun, she could have a movie of her own.  Yes, a romance develops between she and Gru, but it there isn’t a predictable straight-line to get there.

The movie has individual moments that not just amusing, but very funny and inventive.  The best is a date that Gru is force on with a dimwitted neighbor.  What comes of the date won’t be spoiled here, sufficed to stay it is the stuff of great slapstick.

The sequel works better than the original simply because the energy level has been cranked up.  Animated comedies these days lose their comic fortitude by getting too sappy and dreary.  This has been the downfall of “Megamind,” “ParaNorman,” and the Ice Age sequels; all of which got so emotional that they forgot the laughs.  “Despicable Me 2” never loses its comic zeal.  Even the love story has a certain momentum.  Let’s put it this way: A meet-cute here involves Lucy trying to stuff an unconscious Gru into her trunk.  This is funny stuff.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.