Like nearly all of the summer’s blockbusters, Despicable Me 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the unexpected 2010 smash hit, is an entertaining disappointment. Eye-poppingly colorful, sweetly zany, and impeccably voiced, this new adventure featuring super-villain-turned-hero Gru (Steve Carell) and his yellow minions is bound to strike a chord with families and clean up at the box office, but those looking for the same gonzo-spirit and infectious charm that made the original such a breathe of fresh air three years ago may have trouble finding the sweet spots they’re so desperately craving.
After stealing the moon and saving the world, the sequel finds our lovable Gru living the domesticated life, trading in gadgets and weapons for aprons and fairy costumes, the latter of which makes him a hit at his youngest daughter’s birthday party. Unfortunately, the simple life can’t stay all that simple when you’re an ex-super villain, and when a mysterious new foe begins stealing secret laboratories and snatching up Gru’s minions, our reformed hero must team up with a spunky agent, Lucy Wilde (Kristin Wiig), to save the day.
Amidst a few entertaining set pieces (the rocket flying climax) and humorous new characters (Benjamin Bratt’s villain, El Macho, is hilarious), Despicable Me 2 disappoints by failing to stand out in any real way. The original was a sleeper blockbuster because its story was so damn refreshing – a super-villain becoming a hero. This time around Gru is already fighting for good, meaning all the gleefully evil antics and loopy hijinks of the first are long gone. In it’s place we get less screen-time for those adorable young girls, a typical hero-must-save-the-day story that sucks all the feeling out, and a romance between Gru and Lucy that is so foreshadowed there’s barley any chemistry. That’s the main problem here – Lucy isn’t all that funny, or interesting for that matter. Though Wiig does her best with the character’s eccentric vocals, the screenplay gives Lucy all “out-there weirdness” and no heart or even likeability. She’s loud, over dramatic, and annoying, all of which makes the conclusion of the film quite worrisome.
Luckily, the original’s main hat-trick repeats here. Carell is back as Gru, keeping that ghoulish foreign accent that prompts a smile every time he opens his mouth. Those rambunctious minions are everywhere again, making mischief and speaking some sort of alien-blabber. Anytime one of these little things pops up on screen you’re bound to laugh out loud (though we’ll see how well they can carry a movie with 2014’s Minions – I’m a bit skeptical). Lastly, there’s mega-producer Pharrell (who’s everywhere these days thanks to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robing Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”) handling the soundtrack, which, like its predecessor, has to be one of the most joyful sounding original soundtracks ever made. Try listening to the film’s lead single, “Happy”, and not bust out smiling – these tunes are bound to keep you feeling sweet all summer long.
If only the entire movie could’ve done that. Despicable Me 2 is good – there’s no question about that – but it’s also more of the same. Just like I did with Tony Stark, the Enterprise Crew, Jay Gatsby, and Superman, I expected more from Gru.
Review by Zack Sharf