Sunday, June 30, 2013

Despicable Me 2

As a huge fan of "The Office", and subsequently of Steve Carrel, I remember really looking forward to the original Despicable Me when it came out. I left the theater in the summer of 2010 pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Three years later, Illumination Entertainment hasn't really had another financial hit on the caliber of the first film, which seems like the reason for the sequel as much as anything. There weren't many reviews available when I went into the screening on Wednesday, and besides seeing the trailers I approached this sequel with as much of a clean slate as possible.

Gru has given up his lifelong dream of becoming the world's greatest villain, and has taken to throwing his newly adopted daughters lavish birthday parties instead. However, everyone around him seems insistent that he explore the dating arena. Before he can do much more than spurn the advances of would-be-cupids around his neighborhood, the AVL (Anti-Villain League) comes courting Gru for his firsthand knowledge of how a villain thinks and behaves. They are investigating a disturbing event where an entire research facility was stolen using a giant magnet. The perpetrator is using this facility to create indestructible creatures out of previously harmless animals. Partnered with a quirky AVL agent, the pair soon begins to realize that the villain they're searching for is closer than they think.

Despicable Me 2 doesn't break much new ground with this sequel, but it's a highly enjoyable diversion nonetheless. All the characters we loved from the original film are back (especially the ever-popular "Minions"), and the heart of the story remains the family dynamic of Gru and his girls. Some of the originality of the previous film is lost here as Gru is no longer a villain questioning himself as his goodness is brought out of him by the love of his girls, but what they give us is still very entertaining.

It took me a while to warm up to some of the supporting characters, particularly Gru's new partner, Lucy Wilde. However, their extreme quirks become slightly more endearing as the film progresses, even if we don't learn much about their backstory. Some of the humor would be over the top as well, if it wasn't for the hilarious Minions adding an extra layer that still feels fresh after two films. They are by far the funniest thing about both Despicable Me films, and they're used to great effect here.

This film never scales the heights of Pixar in storytelling, but this is still a pretty solid animated film. In fact, this might be the best animated film of the year so far (of course, I have yet to see Monsters University, so that could change). Despicable Me 2 might not be a great story, but you and your family will have a great time watching it. All the kids in my theater were much more enthusiastic here than in The Croods (thank goodness), and I think it's going to be the family film to beat this Independence Day weekend. I give this film a solid three stars.

DESPICABLE ME 2 is rated PG for rude humor and mild action