While there may be an argument that Despicable Me 2 is just a notch below its predecessor, the truth is I was far too busy laughing, being charmed and thoroughly enjoying myself to care.
Vastly superior to the recent Pixar money grab Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 may not explore any new cinematic ground but it still manages to find creative ways to keep us loving the minions, groovin' with Gru and absolutely adoring a story that when you think about it even a little doesn't make that much sense at all.
Again, who cares?
I saw Despicable Me 2 with a packed audience at a promo screening in Indianapolis and it sure captured the attention and the imagination of a good majority of the kids in the audience who were giving up there share of "oohs" and "ahs" and laughs and just about everything else. If you saw the original film, and you should if you haven't, you know that Gru (Steve Carell) was a master villain whose heart got won over by three adorable little goils - Edith (Dana Gaier), Agnes (Elsie Fisher) and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). Despicable Me 2 picks up with a sort of domestic bliss having set in as Gru and his sidekick Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) turning their attention to a line of jams & jellies rather their former lives committing dastardly deeds. The bliss is interrupted when a secret agent, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), swoops in and whisks Gru off to a meeting with the head of the Anti-Villain League, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan). Apparently, some villain has used a gigantic magnetic hovercraft to pilfer an entire Arctic Research Station that just so happened to possess a seriously dangerous formula that can't fall into the wrong hands. They want Gru to help find out who did it and try to get it back.
That's right. They want Gru to become one of the good guys because he was one of the bad guys.
Is it a stretch? Sure, but what else do you expect from a film for kids? In the meantime, Dr. Nefario decides to part ways with Gru because he misses his evil ways and suddenly minions start disappearing.
What's a Gru to do?
He joins forces with Lucy and ends up working in a mall where it is believed the mysterious baddie just might be working. Chief suspects include a hair club owner (Ken Jeong) and an over-the-top restauranteur named Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt). While Despicable Me 2 may not be the year's best animation so far, it's certainly the most creative and fun use of animation in a feature film. It all starts with the minions, delightfully drawn little characters who are brought beautifully to life despite being potentially far too similar to tell apart.
Trust me, you can tell.
Universal Pictures and co-directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin are much smarter this time around and give the minions plenty of time to shine. There are scenes that are ridiculously silly and they're not even that original, but you're having so much fun that you just won't care. If by chance you haven't surrendered yourself to the film? The smile on the face of your kid should win you over.
The voice work is strong across the board with Steve Carell having a joy-filled field day as Gru, a bad guy who's a softie and equally convincing at both ends of the spectrum. You can hear in Carell's voice how much fun he's having here and that fun literally lights up the screen even though you know you're watching an animated character. Elsie Fisher, Miranda Cosgrove and Dana Gaier all shine as Gru's girls and Kristen Wiig is an absolute wonder as Lucy. Benjamin Bratt goes hilariously over-the-top as Eduardo using such a voice that you'll wonder why we've never seen him in this type of role before in live-action.
If you give Despicable Me 2 too much thought you will no doubt find its flaws. Yes, they are definitely present but they're incredibly outshined what is the most spirited, fun and heartfelt animated feature of the year so far. This is also one of the few times when I'll give the 3-D a definite thumbs up. While it's not absolutely essential to enjoy the film, there are definitely enough gimmicky yet fun scenes that play off the 3-D that you'll have yourself an even better time with the glasses on - especially if you stay through the credits!
This Independence Day weekend do yourself a favor and skip the incredibly disappointing The Lone Ranger and give yourself a despicably wonderful time with Gru and his girls.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic