You know what? I love kids’ movies. No shame. Pixar’s Up and DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon are easily among my all-time favorite movies, closely followed by the likes of Toy Story 3, Kung Fu Panda, and The Emperor’s New Groove. And I think I’ve finally figured out why I love them: while so many adult films crank out the same predictable stories, mediocre scripts, and generic characters we’ve seen a thousand times before, kids’ movies almost always produce one or two fresh, imaginative, and thoroughly enjoyable gems each year.
That said, the genre has begun to rely quite a bit on sequels. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (particularly in the case of Toy Story), a sequel to a really original idea often has a hard time recapturing the magic of that first film. When I saw the trailer for Despicable Me 2, I was thrilled by the return of grumpy Gru and his lovably silly, mush-mouthed army of yellow minions. Now that I’ve seen the film, I don’t know if I can say that DM2 surpasses the original, but I will say that it’s very clever and pretty darn adorable.
Synopsis: “Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: The minions, of course. With their garbled language, helium voices, and Stooge-like slapstick humor, these little guys steal the spotlight in this film even more so than in the original. Their antics are extended, their personalities sillier, and they even become a central part of the plot. The truly great thing about the minions—delightfully voiced by the directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud—is that everyone can enjoy them. They’re so wonderfully ridiculous that viewers of all ages would be hard-pressed to make it through the film with a straight face. All of the actors voice their characters superbly, particularly Steve Carell as super-villain-turned-super-dad Gru and Kristen Wiig as peppy love interest Lucy. They bring an undeniable energy to a film that is filled with personality and hilarious, family-friendly action. Favorite scene: When the minions serenade viewers with their rendition of a classic boy band hit. Simply put, it is an awesome spoof.
The Bad: Though this film is funny and imaginative and still so much more unique than a lot of stuff out there, it might just be a tiny bit less awesome than its predecessor. I say “might” because it’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, but I do know that the first Despicable Me is much more true to the title; that is, Gru is actually despicable. In this film, he’s pretty tame. Given how the first film ended, it’s inevitable he’s reined in much of his wicked behavior, but it makes you miss the old Gru. So much of the fun of the original story was seeing his gradual change from coldhearted bad guy to doting dad. Without that, the film arguably loses some of its edge. Least favorite scene: I don’t know if I have a least favorite scene, per se, but if I have to nitpick, I guess I didn’t love the use of the “fart guns.” I can definitely do childish humor, but that’s maybe too much for me.
To Sum It Up: Despite my criticism, I believe this film is an enjoyable, natural continuation of the Despicable Me story. Nothing about it feels forced, and if it doesn’t equal the first film in greatness, then it comes very, very close. We see Gru in a different light, and while he may be less of a tough guy this time around, he’s still very lovable. The story is heartwarming, the actors are wonderful, and the minions are awesome. Basically, perfect kids’ movie.
My Grade: B+