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Thoughts on Despicable Me 2

July 4, 2013

So, as with any of these things I throw at the interwebs to see what sticks, reading ahead may well lead to spoilers (or it may not… I haven’t decided yet, I’m tricky like that).  They will however, be the most macho spoilers known to man.

Took the kids out to see Despicable Me 2 on opening day.  First time in a long time I think I’ve actually seen a film the day it opened and it was time and money well spent.  Simply put, this film is fun.  It also offers a little something for everyone, young or old, male or female. This is a family movie in the truest sense, and one that at it’s heart is really all about just that; family.

To be clear, the name of the film is a bit misleading.There is really very little of a despicable nature going on here.  At best it is about the lead up to something potentially despicable.  We pick up probably 6-8 months after where we left off from the first film.  Gru (Steve Carell) is fully reformed from his super-villain days and hosting a princess-themed birthday party for the now 6-year-old Agnes (Elsie Fisher, still almost painfully cute).

They waste no time giving the people what they want, minions, a pack of them dressed in medieval costume, flailing at one another with literal flails.

I said this after the first film, and I will say it again now: I want a minion.  Maybe five or ten of them.  Come on mad scientists of the world, get on this.  The world needs minions, and I need ten of them for myself (for a start).

In any event, the opening scenes here really serve to establish Gru the family man, and how he, his adopted daughters, and his army of minions have fully integrated themselves into the local community.  Gru still has what could charitably be called social anxiety disorder, and clearly would rather avoid most of his neighbors, but this time around he’s content to just make awkward conversation and occasionally turn the hose on them, rather than shooting them with a freeze ray and blowing up their house.  By most counts that’s probably an improvement, whichever minion is acting as his shrink is clearly doing their job.

After this establishment scene we move into what passes as the plot for the film.  What plot there is is pretty loose, and mostly serves as hooks to hang character pieces off of, but the film is probably better for it.  Where this film succeeds most is on the human level.  The animated set-pieces are fun, but the heart is, well, in the heart.

Gru is approached, and promptly kidnapped by, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) in the name of the Anti-Villain League.  This leads to a great set piece as minions Dave and Stu try to rescue their boss.  Not only is the chase fun and funny, but it showcases some of the first of many, many little visual pop culture shout-outs and homages.  I won’t get into them here because it will be more fun to try spotting them yourself.  There are so many, and from sources both well known and obscure, that I’m sure everyone will find different ones.

The AVL has been tracking Gru since he stole the moon and now needs him to help solve a case that has them stumped.  They figure a former villain can give them some insights.  Gru refuses but comes around after a combination of boredom and loneliness gets him back in the spy game.

Gru and Lucy go undercover at a local mall, giving them a chance to get to know one another/awkwardly flirt while a few cut-away scenes show how the kids and minions are doing (complete with a rash of comical minion kidnappings).

Gru quickly recognizes a face from his past, El Macho.  A legend in the super-villain world, this man supposedly died in the most macho way possible.  Riding a great white shark strapped with a ton of dynamite, out of a jet, into a live volcano.  You can detect a hint of hero worship as Gru describes him, and the fact that his body was never found, just some singed chest hair.

The plot again takes a back seat for a while to get into character pieces as we see Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) develop her first crush, on the son of El Macho.  Gru and Lucy also get to share an unusual (sort of) first date after she rescues him from the date from hell with the help of a mild moose tranquilizer.  The Weekend at Berny’s scene that follows was one of the high points of the film for me.

Just as things are looking up for Gru, the AVL catches who they think is their man and sends Lucy off to Australia, sending him into a funk which he is only really driven out of by the film’s climax tracking down the real bad guy before he can release an army of mutant minions on the East Coast.

It’s another fun set piece, but also one driven by family loyalty, and caps the film nicely as we head into the “and they all lived happily ever after” bit.  A bit, I might add, that includes a couple song and dance scenes by the minions that only serve to make me want my own damn minions that much more.

In the end, we’re left with a really satisfying movie we all loved and walked away from with ear-to-ear feel-good grins.  One of the few movies that’s come out recently that I would gladly pay to see again on the big screen.

Now somebody give me my damn minions!!!


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