Jul 8, 2013

[Movies] Despicable Me 2 (2013)

The first Despicable Me movie was a cute enough adventure in cartoon stereotypes being played around with. As a first animated venture by Universal Pictures, it wasn't too bad even with all the bigger names in such CGI animated movies. But the movie wasn't a total disaster - and I think a lot of its success had more to do with the cute little Minions that provided most of the humor in the movie.

It came as no surprise to me that a sequel was in the works. The movie managed to bring in enough ticket sales to justify that sort of a decision and they had already managed to capture audiences across age brackets, which is always a good thing. I wasn't quite sure what stories were left to tell with regard to Gru, but I knew that I was going to look forward to more and more of the Minions and their wacky antics.

I have to admit that it's a little hard for me to admit that the movie was good on its own. It's carried a lot by the craziness of the Minions - something that I feel the writers, producers and directors took full advantage of in putting this movie together.

I'm certainly not complaining about that.

Synopsis: Despicable Me 2 is the direct sequel to the prior 2010 animated movie. The movie was again directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud with a screenplay written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.

The movie beings with some unknown villain stealing an entire secret laboratory somewhere in the Artctic Circle. This particular lab was dedicated to research involving a substance called PX-41 that is capable of mutating anyone who drinks it into a ferocious invulnerable monster. Thus the Anti-Villain Leage (AVL) set out to find the perpetrator before he or she can use the chemical for nefarious plots, and they decide to recruit the former super-villain, Gru (Steve Carell),  to provide them with unique insight into the mind of their adversary. Initially Gru objects but eventually relents and decides to help out the AVL.

AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristin Wiig) is now tasked to be Gru's partner on this mission as they scope out the nearby mall in order to determine which of the shop owners may be a super-criminal. At the same time, Gru is still dealing with life as a single dad, which includes hosting birthday parties and dealing with the neighbors - many of whom seem determined to fix Gru up on a date. Throw in the fact that the Minions appear to be disappearing one-by-one and we have a lot going on.

The core plot of the movie and Gru becoming a sort of consultant to the AVL was decent but not particularly strong. And as quirky as the shop owners were (they were all probably crooks to some extent), they weren't particularly compelling as characters. Lucy was interesting enough, but again some of Kristin Wiig's unique quirkiness as seen on Saturday Night Live and perhaps even the movie Bridesmaids just didn't translate fully into her animated form.

The romance sub-plot wasn't all that compelling either. They wanted to hint at the severity of Gru's trauma when it comes to women dating back to his childhood but that wasn't exactly revisited and thus felt under-developed. He pretty much just went on one blind date and that was about it. Perhaps adding this in wasn't truly necessary and we could have done without exploring this side of Gru's backstory.

Where the movie obviously shines is the Minions. I expect that the folks behind the movie realized that much of the success of the first movie involved the comic relief provided by these little guys. In this movie they got way more screen time - much to positive effect. Let's face it, these little yellow guys are both adorable and hilarious when they're really in their element. Thus it comes to no surprise that they've already planned a prequel entitled Minions to come out next year.

I didn't watch the movie in 3D, but clearly the animators decided to have fun with the medium again. It was clear which parts of the movie had been designed to have 3D elements popping out of the screen - something that I think a lot of 3D movies totally miss out on. These days we usually see it used to create depth in the movie but that's not very fun and typically nausea inducing.

I really, really enjoyed Despicable Me 2 - even more than the first movie. I know it's not a knock-it-out-of-the-park kind of movie and there are obvious character development issues, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. Plus I'm a total sucker for Minions. Thus here are 4.5 crazy little Minion side-adventures out of a possible 5.

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