I loved films as a kid growing up, not only because the South Coast of KZN was as exciting as floating dust, but because I loved how dynamic and amazing this form of storytelling was. Being a kid, I didn’t really think about important story things like themes, plot, structure, etc. As long as the film was entertaining, I didn’t care about anything else. That was in the early 2000’s, but it’s now 2013 and things have changed considerably.
That conflict between then and now is brought up by Despicable Me 2 which is actually a tricky film for me to review. Essentially DM2 is a kiddy film, so I can’t be as picky as I want to be. It’s really difficult, because I’m not a kid anymore and I like my films to have considerable intellectual value. So, things like “fart cannons” aren’t funny for me. Nevertheless, I tried to see the film for what it is, but I think I failed.
Despicable Me 2, directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, is a sequel to the mega-hit Despicable Me and follows the story of Gru (Steve Carell), with his adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher), as he is appointed by the AVL (Anti-Villain League) to solve and foil a villain’s evil planned. He is accompanied by AVL-agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to search for the villain in a shopping mall. While Gru is on his missions, the minions start disappearing, one by one.
One thing that this film must get credit for is for its marketing and hype creation. When word initially got out that Despicable Me 2 was going to be released, everyone I knew went into a mini-frenzy of “OMG! I must see it!”, “Yay! Minions!” and “Oh yeah!”. I tried to be as enthusiastic as they were, but as with all sequels, I was wary. The hype was huge, so if the film wasn’t good enough, then it would be a massive disappointment. I must say, I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t too impressed either.
Visually, this film is amazing! The animation, together with the excellent voice-acting, is fluid and executed well in its exaggerated style. It’s fast-paced and smooth, making the flow uninterrupted. The colour palette is bright and preppy, which gets kind of annoying when even the evil aspects are coloured in a very preppy purple, but it’s just the chosen style. However, when everything is brightly coloured and happy, there is no real urgency when something bad happens. Regarding the “evil purple” minions, the lacking evilness in the colour choice is made up by the character design. They are truly terrifying-looking minions. The visuals are what saves this film.
The stunning visual aspects, however, could not save the hollow plot from showing its holes. The plot felt slap-dash, because it doesn’t really achieve anything in the end. From the end of the first film, we have already established that Gru is finished with being an evil villain, so there’s not much character left to develop in a sequel. Maybe the film would’ve had more depth if Gru wanted to become evil again, but being evil never occurs to Gru ever again, thus making the theme of “being good vs being evil” (a core theme for the franchise, hence the name) a very hollow theme to the point to where it doesn’t feature at all. The story felt unnecessary and even nonsensical at times and the characters seemed like little dolls with very little soul to carry the story forward.
So what did they decide to fill those plot holes up with? Jokes and gags. Even though they were able to generate a lot of laughs from the young crowd, a lot of the jokes were too silly and juvenile for me to enjoy. Jokes and gags executed by the minions were funny, because of the minions. Seriously, if the minions weren’t featured as much as they were, not even Steve Carell’s comic genius would have been able to save this hollow film. I must admit, the film does have its solid comical moments, but they were too few for me to find the film funny.
The biggest aspect of this film is that of the minions. Everyone loves the minions. Who wouldn’t? They are the best form of comic relief ever created. However, they make the audience more forgiving in terms of mistakes that the film might make. The minions are probably the only reason why people went to watch the film. In the first Despicable Me film, the minions played a crucial role, not only as comic relief, but also illustrated Gru’s transition from bad to good. Now that Gru is essentially good, the minions are reduced to just being comic relief and they do not contribute to the overall story as heavily as I hoped they would.
Okay, I’m being very harsh. If I was a kid, I would’ve thought this was a pretty amazing film, but as an adult there are just too many things that are either empty, unnecessary or plain silly. The only reason why I would watch this again will be for its beautiful animation. The story is just too silly for me to take seriously.
Bottom Line: If you want to laugh and be wowed without thinking too much (or at all), then Despicable Me 2 is just for you! If you’d like to give your brain something substantial to process together with the amazing visuals, then you’ll be somewhat disappointed.