Despicable Me 2 – Something a Bit More Conventional

(originally posted September 5th 2014)

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As soon as I finished watching ‘Despicable Me,’ I immediately jumped over to the sequel. Usually, sequels nowadays make me slightly wary, especially for films aimed at younger audiences. It’s just all too easy for the film makers to just do the same thing again and rehash all the popular jokes. But, ‘Despicable Me 2’ is more akin to the likes of ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘Shrek 2’ in that it actually succeeds in being not only as good as the first film, but maybe even better.

Gru has very much quit the villain business now; opting to instead focus on raising his three daughters (even trying to run a legitimate jelly business). But he is soon approached by the Anti-Villain League (an organisation dedicated to stopping supervillain based crime) to assist them in tracking down a villain who has stolen an experimental mutagen, since as a villain himself, Gru knows how their minds work. He initially refuses until his partner, Dr Nefario (who I neglected to mention in the last post and voiced by British comedian Russell Brand) decides to leave because he misses being evil. Gru reluctantly agrees to help the AVL (I guess because a part of him misses the action too – it’s never properly explained), finding himself partnered with rookie agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, who also voiced Miss Hattie in the last film).

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What follows is something that was very different from the first film. Gru is still as wacky as before but he has noticeably softened up, and this is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it’s quite nice and adorable to see him as a single dad. I love the opening sequence at Agnes’ birthday party as it’s the complete opposite to Gru’s establishing moment from the last film. There were plenty of little nuances that I liked, such as Gru’s front garden actually being green and Agnes’ bomb bed now resembling a unicorn.

But this also means Gru has lost that edge that made him so likable to begin with. There are no real villainy antics anymore. There are a couple of moments such as Gru spraying an annoying neighbour in the face with a hose which, while funny, isn’t on the same level as freezing all the patrons in a coffee shop to get ahead of a queue. I thought we’d see Gru balancing his villain life with his parent life but I guess the filmmakers thought Gru needed to go full-on good guy.

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The plot’s a lot more predictable as well. Whereas the first film tried to go down a different route to other family films and carve its own identity, this one has all the beats we’ve seen in nearly every other movie, particularly with the relationship between Gru and Lucy. At first, I thought it was going to be strictly a working relationship, which would’ve been great in my opinion. I want more platonic relationships in film. But no, it does eventually segue into a romance. It’s not a terrible one though; Lucy herself is a welcome addition to the cast due to her hyperactive nature. Sadly, despite being an apparent badass agent, she still gets captured at the end and needs saving. Yeah, she is a rookie agent, but it’s such a shame to see this film following standard conventions when the last one was so unique. I might’ve preferred the romance more if Lucy spent more time with the girls; aside from one scene where Agnes asks if she’s single they don’t really talk, which is a shame since I feel there was room for some good interactions there.

Speaking of the girls, they don’t do much in this film outside of taking part in the big climax. We get some nice insight into Agnes who wants Gru to find a mummy for her and Margo has a sub-plot where she falls for an Italian boy (but that gets resolved off-screen). Edith, meanwhile, doesn’t do anything. In fact, I don’t think she even had that many lines. Again, I loved them in the last film so I’m a tad annoyed to see them get side-lined like this.

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Ironically, the Minions wind up contributing more to the film, actually playing an important part in the main plot and were also a tad funnier than they were last time.

So far, it seems like ‘Despicable Me 2’ is an inferior film to its predecessor, at least from a story perspective, but, strangely enough, I did find it funnier. There were plenty of moments that properly made me laugh, as opposed to the first film which made me giggle slightly. It’s like the writers looked at what worked joke-wise in the last film and steered it in that direction. There’s a lot more slapstick this time around, probably to appeal to the kids more, but the animation is so exaggerated that it’s hard not to laugh at it. It has much more of a ‘Loony Tunes’ vibe to it.

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Also, most of the humour is original. I know that sounds like a given, but some sequels make the mistake of rehashing nearly every joke that the original made, hoping to get the same laugh. Here, I can only recall a couple of gags that made a comeback, and they were still funny. I think the freeze-ray will always be a favourite as long as it’s used sparingly and the use of the fart gun actually made me laugh.

I suppose in retrospect, I have to prefer the first film overall simply for being more original, but I can’t hate or even mildly dislike the sequel. Its plot might not be that great and it loses something the first one had, but it’s still very entertaining. And while the idea of the Minions getting their own movie makes me roll my eyes, I’m still kinda looking forward to the upcoming third film.

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