Despicable Me 2
What It Is
“Papples!” Yes, the minions are back. Yellow and goofy and be-goggled, the minions haven’t changed much from the first time you saw them, in Despicable Me. They’re still wearing blue overalls, following orders from the supervillain Gru (Steve Carell), and performing massive manual labor in the basement.
And now, as the sequel begins, the minions are doing something sort of new, too. As Gru endeavors to go straight in order to be a good citizen and model dad for his adorable adopted daughters — Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and little Agnes (Elsie Fisher) — the minions are making jams and jellies. They’re not very good at it, the multi-faceted process being chaotic and the recipe, concocted by Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), being more dreadful than delicious, but still, they slip and slide, giggling madly as they crush fruits with their black-rubber-booted feet, having just about as much fun as minions can have.
And yet, Gru faces a dilemma. The jams and jellies business is not going so well and he rather misses the giddy delights of supervillainy. And so, though he’s hesitant when the Anti-Villain League recruits him to re-enter the game (Gru has never thought of himself as a good guy, after all), he agrees. If only to regain access to high tech gizmos, high stakes deceptions, and multi-terrain vehicles. It’s a bonus when, just as the girls are hoping he’ll find them a mother, he also meets his Anti-Villain League agent partner, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who not only admires his ingenuity as a notorious supervillan, but also finds him increasingly irresistible.
Their mission has Gru and Lucy posing as the new proprietors of a cupcake shop so they can spy on their fellow mall storefront operators, including the wig shop owner Floyd Eagle-san (Ken Jeong) and Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who runs a popular Mexican restaurant. It happens that Eduardo has a teenage son, Antonio (Moisés Arias), on whom Margo develops an instantaneous crush.
Between his suspicion that Eduardo resembles a former villainous colleague (El Macho, who wears a Mexican wrestler’s singlet and mask) and his agitation regarding Margo’s flirtations with Antonio, Gru ends up focusing his investigative sights on the gregarious, fancy-dancing restaurateur, despite instructions from the Anti-Villain League boss (Steve Coogan) to stand down. At the same time, his minions are disappearing, kidnapped for the purposes of an experiment (an injection, no less!) that renders them purple and monstrous, with wild hair, scary faces, and all manner of spastic aggressions. To recover his minions, and of course, to protect his “guhrls” (as he pronounces the word, so lovingly and so bizarrely), Gru follows through on his (formerly) devious mind’s hunches and finds his way to a date with Lucy too.
Why It’s Fun
The affectionate, utterly trusting dynamic between Gru and his daughters was the most endearing element in the first film, and that remains true in Despicable Me 2. When Agnes lets him know that she recognizes him beneath his fairy princess disguise but pretends she doesn’t for the benefit of her more gullible birthday party guests, the brief exchange between the two is exquisite.
In addition to Gru’s grumpy demeanor, his body design is strangely charming, what with his dark-circled eyes, oversized torso, and spindly legs, not to mention his fashion sense (he’s still fond of the striped scarf as dapper accessory).
The slapsticky physical comedy will appeal to many viewers, as Gru and Lucy spend some long minutes falling down and leaping about when they sneak into Eduardo’s restaurant after hours, and when Dr. Nefario wields his fat gun, a favorite invention from the first film.
Who’s Going To Love It
Some older viewers will appreciate the film’s several references to previous movies that kids may not know or remember, including Alien, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Empire Strikes Back, not to mention Carmen Miranda’s fruit basket hat.
Minion fans will be happy to see assorted minion-focused set pieces here, even if they don’t have much to do with each other or with the rest of the plot. One fan favorite — generating lots of cheers, laughs, and applause during the preview screening — has four minions re-enacting an All 4 One music video, for the song “I Swear.” The minions, incapable of speech, use a French-inflected gibberish, wear white outfits (one has a beret), and roll about on a grassy hillside. It’s pretty priceless.
Fans of pop music producers Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira will appreciate their clever soundtrack.
What To Be Aware Of
Frequent and broadly cartoony violence, including zap guns, goo guns, a car chase (in the mall, up and down escalators), automatic-seeming weapons shot from a helicopter, and the increasingly crazy conduct of the Tasmanian-Devil-like purple minions.
Some general allusions to drinking and drunkenness, when the minions are captured and fooled to think they’re at a beach resort (and treated with drinks on trays), and in Eduardo’s restaurant.
When Gru goes on a date with Shannon (Kristen Schaal), she wears a tight vavoomy dress and comes on very strong. Gru is saved from his extreme discomfort when Lucy shoots Shannon with a dart to her bottom, after which the couple sneaks her past the mall police by pretending she’s drunk. It’s an old gag, commonly used in college comedies.
Gru at the start of the film dresses up as a fairy princess for Agnes’ birthday party, his gruesome form and heavily accented tenor giving him away, despite the pink skirt and glittery wand.
The minions are given to outrageous antics and costumes. They appear in grass skirts and coconut bra-tops, French maid uniforms, and red-pigtailed wigs, and, as the movie ends, a full-on recreation of “YMCA,” as originally performed by the Village People in their famous outfits: cowboy, construction worker, policeman, and Indian.
7 out of 10
Despicable Me 2
Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong
Studio: Universal Studios
US General Release: July 3, 2013
UK General Release: June 28, 2013