A strident, clumsy, mean-spirited, focus group-oriented sequel to the 2010 flick Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 furthers the notion that 2013 doesn’t seem to be a good year for animation. This is a lazy sequel – lazier than Pixar’s Monsters University in fact – and it is at times a rather odious motion picture.
Of course, none of that really matters. Despicable Me 2 made a killing at the box office and mass audiences will always lap up the colours and motion fed to them through lacklustre major studio animation projects such as this one. In this instance, much like with Pixar’s outing this year, everything that made the original a unique experience has been washed away.
Former super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) is nicely domesticated and throwing cutesy birthday parties for his daughters. A neighbour (Nasim Pedrad) is trying to set him up on various dates, but he’s not interested. One day he is taken by AVL agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who wants him recruited to join the good guys in finding out who stole a secret laboratory.
Working on the right side of the law for a change takes Gru and Lucy through a series of possible suspects, including the nefarious El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). The minions also factor in, as the secret super-villain wants to use a mutagen in the stolen lab to create super-monsters. And naturally, there are romantic subplots.
Having Gru work against his villainous archetype is just the beginning of this film’s problems, but it is the foundation everything stands on. What made Despicable Me at least halfway interesting was its tale about a villain who made no apologies about being evil and was still somehow cast as the hero.
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, Despicable Me 2 alters course. The three girls who had sweetened the very sour Gru in the first picture are now homogenized, useless archetypes and their individual personalities have been buffed away. This is in line with the movie’s trend of not being overly nice to female characters, to put it mildly.
So the flick features a nice version of Gru, neatly compartmentalized daughters and, of course, the wide open opportunity to create a nuclear family. It’s not hard to see where Despicable Me 2 is going from the moment it introduces the grating “cool mom” characteristics in Lucy. She has all the pep and flavour of a mother in a Target commercial. A lipstick Taser? How empowering!
But that’s exactly what this movie has in mind. Some scenes are repugnant in their violence, like when a “bad date” ends with the victim being tranquilized, dragged around, hit in the head numerous times, mounted atop a car like a dead deer, and eventually tossed sadistically into the back of another vehicle. How funny.
The worst part about the scene in question – and any of the movie’s other kinks – is that it didn’t need to happen. It added only marginally to what even the most naïve of audience members know is coming, but that’s the problem with assembly line animation like this. How it works and what it possibly means doesn’t matter so long as it can divert kids for a while.
Despicable Me 2 is a bad movie. It features a sluggish plot, broad ethnic stereotypes, achingly dull and/or irritating characters, and an unpleasant side that is less comically evil and more morally revolting. In a year populated by dumb retreads and lethargic animated features, this one may be the worst of the pile.