The surprise hit movie gets a not-so surprise sequel, but – surprise! – it’s fun, too.
Someone has stolen an entire research lab from the Arctic, but it wasn’t former supervillian Gru (voice of Steve Carell). Since stealing the moon and defeating Vector, he has devoted himself to raising his beloved little girls Margo, Edith and Agnes (voices of Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher), but he’s feeling a little restless going from bad guy to cool dad making an honest living with jellies and jams. Enter Lucy (voice of Kristen Wiig), an operative from the Anti Villain League who kidnaps Gru for his villainous expertise. Back in the game again, Gru and Lucy must figure out who the real villain is and stop them before their evil plan comes to fruition.
While Disney’s Pixar has animated storytelling down to a science, there’s usually a lack a craziness more often found in films by other studios. The original Despicable Me hit on a unique combination of central-plot characters while providing the Twinkies-in-coveralls “minions” as comic relief. Like the Madagascar penguins, the minions often steal the show out from under the principles, but there’s a unique balance in the Despicable Me films that blends it better. What makes their world interesting is all the big things going on in the background that come down to such simple character moments and interactions. While the heavy in the last movie, Vector, was missed, the addition of Lucy intermingles well with the nutty family, and the minions have stepped it up a notch.
The only thing that really holds this sequel back is the same thing that held back the original: it just doesn’t seem epic enough to be a “summer blockbuster,” Then again, maybe that’s a good thing; it certainly didn’t seem to hurt its performance at the box office. The voice actors for Gru and the girls lend a lot of personality, but they also inform these characters. Gru may still be a bit of a sourpuss and too ready to speak his mind – even with a handy garden hose – but he’s a devoted father and doesn’t put up with anyone or anything that messes with his family. Can you name any other supervillian, former or not, who actually cares for just not one of their minions but ALL of them? The series moves the story forward by embracing Gru’s demeanor while showing he can be an effective tool for “good” as long as it’s not too good.
The animation is top-notch again, as always, but the premise allows a degree of silliness that many animated films shy away from, Loony Toons level antics. The virtually indestructible minions lad the charge on that front, but their well-meaning yet borderline-annoying behaving is a treat. Unlike the Shrek series that took three sequels to get one right, Despicable Me in is in capable hands, and another sequel isn’t likely far off. So, if you don’t like Twinkies wearing goggles and doing funny things or simply cannot fathom the humor in a Blowfeld-esque Bond villain raising little girls rather than hold the world hostage with a nuclear device, there are plenty of other films out there waiting for viewers; has anyone even watched Turbo yet?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)