27 June 2013


Despicable Me hit cinemas in 2010, and was fortunate enough to just squeak past the later release of the less-remembered Megamind. Aside from its plot about a lonely supervillain trying to pilfer the Moon, it had shades of Lemony Snicket in its adoption plot, a bunch of memorable little gonks called Minions, and a side of sweetness that kept it afloat. The film was a huge hit at the box office, so Despicable Me 2 feels all but inevitable.

After the first film's happy ending, Gru is acting as a single dad to his young charges, Margo, Edith and Agnes, while his old evil pal, Dr. Nefario, and his hordes of hyperactive Minions toil away on a legitimate, non-evil business selling jams and jellies. He's given something to occupy himself when he's press-ganged into an investigation by the Anti-Villain League. With the help of some new gadgets and the excitable Agent Lucy Wilde, Gru must now uncover and foil the dastardly plans of another supervillain.

The previous paragraph was surprisingly tough to write. I like to begin reviews with a spoiler-free story summary, to give you some context, but it's tough to keep things spoiler-free in a film that has no compunctions about being entirely predictable. Even while trying to avoid it, I've still managed to give you most of the story ingredients without necessarily connecting the dots between them. Then again, nobody should be hugely surprised that Despicable Me 2 is utterly straightforward.

While the story isn't concerned with giving older audience members a mental workout, the anarchic humour that made the first film so enjoyable for some has been reproduced and even accelerated. The rate at which the film bombards the viewer with jokes and sight gags is near relentless, so when a joke occasionally fails to land, you're not far from the next good gag. But really, considering the audience it's for, it's most important to note that most kids, in the screening I saw, were laughing at just about everything.

As in the first film, I especially enjoyed how this is one of those films where the big name actors providing voices are also actually acting, as opposed to just lending their own voices. Steve Carell's Gru is one of the better animated character creations of recent years, and led to a bizarre but brilliant chat show appearance in the run-up to the sequel's release, and there's enjoyable vocal turns from Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig and Benjamin Bratt. Unusually, the latter stood in for Al Pacino, who recorded all his lines and then left the production due to "creative differences" a couple of months back- it's surreal to see how the animation of his character has kind of been based on Pacino's persona, but Bratt holds his own in performance terms.

On the downside, the sequel definitely lacks the sweetness that made the first film so appealing. There are cute moments between Gru and his kids this time around too, with the youngest, Agnes, remaining one of the funnier and cuter creations in the film, while the older sisters are very thinly sketched. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud are far more interested in the Minions, who are even getting their own spin-off film next Christmas. They've featured in a lot of the film's marketing, and for good reason- their baby-talk and slapstick invincibility continues to be a winning, (not yet annoying) combination.

Despicable Me 2 hits more than it misses, and if it ever drags, it's because you can see your way from A to B fairly easily in every aspect of its plot. The appeal comes from the irresistible energy with which it's delivered- it's childish and slapstick-y, but no matter what age you are, you'll find it tough to keep yourself from being swept away in the madness of it all. It's a lot like Shrek 2- what it lacks in comparison to the sweeter parts of the first film, it makes up for with big laughs and imaginative characters.

Despicable Me 2 is released tomorrow, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Despicable Me 2, why not share your comments below?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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