Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud (Despicable Me)
Starring: (Voices) Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan
I feel churlish about this, but I didn’t much care for Despicable Me 2. I wasn’t that wild about the original, though, so I probably oughtn’t be surprised. This one is more of the same — only without the novelty value and with an almost nonexistent story. (No wonder the studio didn’t put out a plot synopsis.) The film mostly works on the idea that audiences can’t get enough of the Minions — those little fellows that look like Cheetos, speak an indecipherable language and behave like badly behaved 5-year-olds. Judging by the film’s performance at the box office, that idea would seem to have some merit. Are they cute? Sure, but whether their amusement value is limitless is another matter. I’m sure the studio loves them, since they’re marketed in an array of Minion stuffed toys of various sizes — not to mention talking Minions and other money-spinners. (We should probably remain silent on the existence of a tie-in $34.95 Fart Blaster, though I do hope they trademarked that name. These are wondrous times we live in.) In any case, the movie delivers maximum Minions for your money — if that’s your sort of thing.
The central problem with a Despicable Me 2 is obvious from the onset, since by the end Despicable Me the despicable title character is no longer despicable. So in round two, we have formerly despicable Gru (Steve Carell) retired from his life of crime and trying to launch a jelly-making enterprise. Hardly the stuff of great drama, the jelly turns out to be inedible muck. So they came up with the idea that Gru will be enlisted by the Anti-Villain League to bring down some new master criminal. It’s not a bad idea, but the film keeps wandering away from the point. In fact, that’s what the film mostly does — wander. It doesn’t so much arrive at its conclusion as it simply bumps into it by accident. Along the way we get Gru avoiding a date, Gru on a date, Gru in love, Gru dealing with eldest adopted daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) coming of age, youngest adopted daughter Agnes (Elsie Fisher) wanting a mother and the list goes on, including lots of Minion antics.
It’s not that the movie is unlikable. It’s that it feels like a trip through a random checklist of things that played well in the first film. Whatever else may be said about the original Despicable Me, it felt like a sincere attempt to make a fresh movie. This feels like a cash-grab. What was touching in that film comes across as calculated here. What was funny feels like an imitation. Top this off with the utter lack of story construction and it’s hard to call it good. Sure, there are good moments — notably Steve Coogan voicing the supercilious head of the Anti-Villain League — but you’d have to be more mad-for-Minions to actually recommend it. Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.
Playing at Carmike 10