Despicable Me 2
Courtesy photo

I haven’t seen the original Despicable Me film, but even though I’m a newbie to the super-villainous animated franchise, and was just a little lost with the initial set-up for this sequel, Despicable Me 2 is fiendishly funny and a fantastic film for the whole family. I enjoyed this movie so much that I’m definitely going to be seeking out the first one on video and I’m also already looking forward to next year’s prequel, Minions (which is currently slated for December, 2014.)

If you’ve seen the first film, then I probably don’t need to tell you that the “Me” in the movie is a character named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell – although you could never tell it was him), who is kind of a cross between Mr. Burns of The Simpsons and Quasimodo. He’s an ultra-smart former bad-guy, who is also the father of three adopted (and adorably animated) young girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) – oldest to youngest.

Gru lives in a normal suburban neighborhood where all the cookie-cutter homes look the same except for his dark and intimidating mansion that also houses a secret underground laboratory where his hundreds of minions slave away on whatever projects the once evil-genius is currently working on.

Gru’s minions steal nearly every scene in the movie and they are short, yellow and capsule-shaped characters who are mostly bald and wear goggles and bib-overalls. They speak in some sort of gibberish language (as voiced by the film’s co-directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) that when mixed together with animated facial expressions and body language is actually pretty easy to understand.

When Despicable Me 2 begins, Gru is retired from villainy and is working on raising his kids, and developing a new line of jellies and jams, when he is called on by the Anti-Villain League (AVL), headed by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), to help locate and capture a super-villain who has stolen a serum that turns living organisms into monstrous creatures (think “Gossamer” from Bug Bunny’s classic “Hair-Raising Hare” episode.

Reluctantly, Gru teams up with AVL Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and the two go undercover at a cupcake bakery in the local shopping mall where Anti-Villain League sensors have found traces of the mutant transformation compound in one of the adjoining businesses.

At a Mexican restaurant in the mall, Gru recognizes the owner as a former villain, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), who is thought to have died in the most manly (and hilarious) fashion ever – a feat that would be certain to make the “most interesting man in the world” jealous. But despite Gru’s gut feeling that Macho is the man responsible for the serum theft, the AVL instead arrests a hair-dresser named Floyd Eagle-san (Ken Jeong) for the crime.

With the case closed Lucy and Gru have to go their separate ways, just as they are beginning to acknowledge their love for each other; but farcical sci-fi style wackiness ensues as the screenplay (by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) has Gru, his partner Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), his daughters, his minions and Agent Wilde all teaming-up to help save the world. For me the film has the same spoofy tone of Futurama, but has excellent computer animation is much friendlier to families with young children.

I normally hate, I mean really hate, 3D films, but I have to admit that this one has some pretty darn good 3D effects going for it that almost make the annoying glasses and the darkened picture worth the sacrifice. In particular there are a couple of first-person style sequences, from the perspective of a mutant minion, that are very cool and extremely funny at the same time.

On top of being great entertainment, this movie is just a visual joy to watch. It has one of the most colorful palettes I have ever seen, which I’m sure is intentional to make it appealing to the youngest of kids – but it worked on me too. (Ooooh, pretty!)

As I walked out of the theatre I could already hear and see little kids excitedly quoting the movie and acting out the minion antics (to the chagrin of some parents), and I don’t think you can ask for a better endorsement of a family movie. Despicable Me 2 is the best animated film that I’ve seen so far this year, and I may just go see it again for the fun of it. Grade: 8/10

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