This is Part 1 of a double feature film review by Natalie Belz. Tune in for a review of Pacific Rim tomorrow morning.
I did not really want to see Despicable Me 2 when my father took me to the theater last Monday. We were going with Grammy and Sydney, two very good friends, and their cousin, so I felt obligated to go. When we met up at the theater, Grammy gave us funny, plastic minion McDonald’s toys that blew “fart guns.” These were fairly entertaining to play with throughout the movie.
The sequel follows the much beloved Despicable Me of 2010. I’d never seen the original, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The movie follows ex-evil villain Gru, who is now a father and “jelly-jam” maker and has no time to waste on evil schemes and science-y weapons and ray-guns and over-the-top flying mobiles with their fantastic features. Instead he enjoys his humble life fathering his adopted daughters Agnes, Margo and Edith. The inevitable twist comes when he is recruited (kidnapped) by the Anti-Villain League, who want him to partner up with the young, red-headed agent Lucy Wilde (wonderfully voiced by Kristen Wiig).
Despicable Me 2 is greatly entertaining as a children’s movie. Enjoyable to children as well as adults of all ages, it is chock-full of quick, clever humor and fabulous animation. The characters are quirky and lovable. Lucy Wilde is a spunky, easily excitable woman who many a minion and ex-evil villain can fall in love with. Gru’s adorable daughters are also memorable for their sweet attitude toward Gru and his minions, ninja skills, fluffy unicorns and first crushes. And yes, the minions—the iconic, unforgettable, and hilarious little, yellow things are back, dominating half the comedic aspects of the films.
As far as wild children’s humor goes, Despicable Me 2 is all over the place. But look closely. Between silly minion dialect and “sheepbutt” jokes, you’ll find Alien references (chicken popping out of Gru’s chest), pole-dancing minions, ditsy, goofy romance and subtle Eminem praise. The older you are, the more you will laugh at the layers of comedy. For not usually taking much interest in children’s movies, I definitely had a smile plastered to my face the entire time.
For meeting every aspect a Disney cartoon strives to meet, it still failed in the one way that many (especially recent) Disney movies do—originality. I’m not much of a fan of sequels, especially to good movies that had closed-endings. Despicable Me, from what I’ve heard, was very good and quite popular. And oddly enough, Despicable Me 2 was predicted to be even better. But the fact still stands that it followed a common children’s film plot and shared similar elements with the first movie. Gru, the protagonist, is dragged into a wild mission involving a great threat to humanity. His love interest gets involved and is eventually threatened. Our love for the minions is somewhat exploited. But for being a standard cartoon, it was still very good. Very, very good. It didn’t try too hard in any way, and Gru’s desire to leave his crazy, villainous ways behind and newfound father complex create a wonderfully heart-warming story. Not to mention finding the love of his life.
I generally dislike going to see cartoons or children’s movies. I was completely raised on Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and, now with the freedom to go see them, have a hard time adjusting to Disney, Pixar and other similar production companies. Studio Ghibli can make a hardened critic out of anyone.
I did see Monsters University. I thought it was good, too. As good as Despicable Me 2, anyway. Another notable animation of this year that I saw was Wreck-It Ralph. A newfound family favorite across the nation, Wreck-It Ralph shared many qualities with Despicable Me 2. For instance, the protagonist, Ralph, was a “bad-guy” who suffered from the villain stereotype and wanted to drop his wrecking ways. He, like Gru, also developed a fatherly attitude to the movie’s adorable, iconic little-girl character. In Wreck-It Ralph, it was the candy car racing Vanellope von Schweetz, who was shunned by all the other characters in her videogame, Sugar Rush. In Despicable Me 2, Gru found his softer side with his three adopted daughters. Being a fan of John C. Reilly and videogames, I found Wreck-It Ralph to be superior.
I quite enjoyed the romantic side of Despicable Me 2. Lucy Wilde was a great love interest—she was red-headed (like myself), tall, skinny, and a bit goofy, and way out of Gru’s league. But her relationship with Gru was very sweet. Her admiration for him and easily excitability let us all fall in love with her at the end. She really wrapped up the movie, and brought out much of Gru’s romantic nature. Next to her, the second side of the romantic aspect in the movie, was Margo’s cute adventure with her crush, something any middle-school girl could relate to. It played a key role in exposing Gru’s protectiveness toward his daughters.
Though it is well made, Despicable Me 2 will never be my favorite movie. It just didn’t stick, and after writing this I probably won’t think of it or see it again. I’m just not the kind of person to take much interest in those kinds of movies. And if you ask me, it wasn’t the great summer Disney movie that would have enough impact to eventually change the way cartoons are made/viewed. But it was good, entertaining and absolutely hilarious. Not overdone or over-the-top, and not too much like the original. It’s worth seeing if you have enough money and time to go see a movie at a regular theater.