By Will Ashton
Blessed be those minions.
Not only were they the saving grace of the first Despicable Me movie, but those little yellow guys are, undoubtedly, the best thing about its sequel too.
The first movie centered on a super-villain named Gru, who plans of stealing the moon are interrupted when a trio of little girls come into his care and warm his heart. But really, who cared all that much about those characters? I mean, sure, the girls were cute and all. But the minions were the ones that really, truly stole the show.
And Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind these movies and that dreadful adaptation of The Lorax last year, are very wise about their audience. Not only are the minions at the center of this film’s promotions (Did you see the minion blimp?!), but they also have a bigger hand in this film’s plot. And their bigger presence not only makes for a funnier sequel, but the film’s tighter pace and strong sense of focus may actually make this sequel better than the first film.
Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell), now a loving father, has decided to leave the villain business in order to live happily with his daughters and make his own brand of jelly. But before he can settle himself down, he is kidnapped by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), a member of the Anti-Villain League who wants to use Gru’s talents in order to track down a new super-villain.
Admittedly, it takes a little while for Despicable Me 2 to warm itself up. The first 30 or so minutes are full of flat jokes and dull banter that made me worry that I would be having some awful Lorax flashbacks throughout the film’s 90 minute running time. But, thankfully, once they establish their plot and go with it, not only does the film pick up, but the jokes get better, cleverer and more frequent.
Some people have been quick to compare these films with the Looney Tunes, which, in all honesty, is a pretty fair comparison. While, I feel, this series doesn’t quite have the sophistication and wittiness to be on the same level as those characters, it does have its same level of energy and mayhem, which makes it practically irresistible for kids.
It’s bright, colorful and, once it establishes itself, it knows when it is time to throw in a joke or a visual gag. Which makes Despicable Me 2 not only one of the more entertaining sequels I have seen so far this summer, but also, likely, the second best comedy I have seen so far this summer. In your face, The Hangover Part III.
As far as the plot goes, there are no big surprises. Most of the major plot points should be detected by anyone over the age of 10. So, in order to make up for its predictability, the film, wisely, pushes the elements of the film that worked best the first time into the foreground. The 3-D is among the best that I have seen this year. One shot in particular involving bubbles is one of the best uses of the technology that I have seen in a long time.
But, most specifically, the minions are giving a much bigger role this time around. And, thank God. For whenever there is a lull in the plot, or the film gets weighted down but its rather rudimentary main characters, they are never too far away to steal away the attention of its audience, providing the film its much-needed chuckles.
The minions are supposed to get their own movie next year, which is set to feature Sandra Bullock (eh…) and Jon Hamm (yay!). Normally, I would say that this may be a bit too much. But, honestly, the minions may be one of the few causes where they have enough energy to carry their own feature. I mean, they stole the show in these two movies, so it shouldn’t be too hard for them to work their magic in a movie of their own. Let’s just cut the fat and get the people what the came for anyway. We’ll have to see next year if this is going to be too much of a good thing. But I’m feeling pretty confident, and now I’m looking forward to it more than I ever was for either of the two Despicable Me movies.
Despicable Me 2 will not go down as my favorite animated movie this year. I already liked The Croods more, and I have the feeling that, while I still have yet to see Monsters University, that I’m going to like it at least a little more too. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun in that theater. By the end, it starts to wear out its welcome a little bit, but I had enough fun with it that it was worth the while anyway.