They’ve done it again. The 2010 hit “Despicable Me” offered up a kind of family-friendly entertainment that only a cold-hearted cynic could actually despise. Its “Looney Tunes”-like slapstick offered light and lovable counter-programming to the visually stunning and emotion- filled animated films of the big studios such as DreamWorks and Pixar. In “Despicable Me 2,” Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures apply the “if it ain’t broke…” approach and have churned out a sequel that in every way lives up to its predecessor.
This achievement isn’t exactly staggering. As enjoyable as the first film was, it fell squarely into kid-focused entertainment with a hidden entertainment value for adults. The gags were mostly physical, immature and celebrated violence as a means to a laugh. Nothing has changed with “Despicable Me 2.” Fortunately, the quad team of directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud with writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul works just hard enough to keep the “Despicable” shtick fresh.
The film reacquaints us with Gru (Steve Carell) as he adapts to life without super-villainy while taking care of his adopted girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes. Suddenly, he’s abducted by the Anti- Villain League and brought to their underwater headquarters by the eccentric agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig). They explain a villain has stolen a very dangerous serum of sorts and request Gru’s help as a former super-villain. Gru gives them the cold shoulder the first time around, but naturally changes his mind. Teamed up with Lucy, they narrow their search to a local mall, where Gru discovers a man he thinks to be the famed and presumably dead villain El Macho (Benjamin Bratt).
The villain of the movie remains a mystery though his plan involves kidnapping Gru’s lovable minions. That said, plot doesn’t hold much weight when it comes to enjoying “Despicable Me 2,” as was the case with the first film. The movie instead rides on the success of its antics, be it slapstick or subtle, clever humor — or even a combination of both as is frequently the case.
In terms of heart-warming family themes, “Despicable Me 2” opts for cliché. As a single father, Gru is highly motivated by keeping the young Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) away from boys and the neighborhood housewives are all intent with fixing him up. His girls, especially Agnes, are all excited by the possibility of having a mom, and looking around the options are … pretty clear.
Sticking to the mold isn’t as easy as it probably should be, so props to Illumination Entertainment for matching the hype. As such, “Despicable Me 2” shouldn’t find many detractors. At the same time, it remains a fun diversion in comparison to animated films from DreamWorks and Pixar, which (mostly) continue to innovate rather than stick to a formula while delivering a similar caliber of entertainment.
Despicable Me 2
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio
Starring: (voices) Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove