Despicable Me was a surprise hit in 2010 – the story of a mad scientist who adopts three little girls to be a part of his diabolical plan (that does not go as planned) was just the kind of summer fun film that both kids and adults could enjoy. Despicable Me 2 takes the story to the next chapter.
The film opens with an action scene where a giant magnet steals a mysterious substance. No one knows who did it or why. It is an exciting bit of business that reminds one of the opening bit of action in a James Bond flick, but with some humor.
Gru (Steve Carell) has become the doting dad for Margo, Agnes and Edith. The birthday party for Agnes almost falls apart until Gru takes on the guise of a fairy princess to save the day. This is the first of some very funny moments that also establishes that Gru will do anything to save the feelings of his children. A woman in the neighborhood wants to set Gru up on a date, something he refuses to be a part of.
On the other side of the plot, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is an agent for AVL (the Anti Villain League), a group of do-gooders who keep the world safe. The theft was of PXL, a chemical compound that can turn any simple animal into a killing machine. It the wrong hands this virus is a dangerous concoction.
Gru has problems with both his minions and his henchman Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand). The good doctor misses being evil and has secured employment elsewhere. Gru eventually takes a job with AVL to find out where the PXL has disappeared. They have traced it to a mall, and he pretends to be a cupcake shop owner in order to investigate.
The story is of Gru trying to figure out who in the mall is the super-villain. It is also of the romance of Gru and Lucy. Mixed in is the story of Margo getting her first crush. The entire exercise builds to a climatic battle between the forces of good and evil. The minions have their place in the film, being both comic relief and a major plot twist.
Despicable Me 2 is the rarest of sequels, one that is better than the original. It has more jokes, more heart and more action that the first time out. Writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul slowly build a complicated plot and never loose focus of the characters or of the situations. It is a brilliantly structured screenplay with a solid foundation to hang massive amounts of comedy bits on the frame.
Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud find the right balance between comedy and empathy. The scenes between Gru and Agnes tug at the heart-strings in a way that few animated films manage. They put the minions through the paces, almost as a Greek Chorus commenting on the situations being presented.
Steve Carell has not had the best of luck since leaving The Office – both The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World didn’t light the box office on fire. This role should right his career and give him a $100 million hit. He plays Gru with equal parts distain and warmth.
The 3D is another element of the film that works perfectly. They use depth of field to bring a full life in an animated world and still manage to do all the little 3D tricks that make the audience grab at the screen. Smoke effects and backgrounds of minions are just two of the elements that fill every inch of the screen. It is worth the extra money to see the film while utilizing this medium.
Despicable Me 2 is easily one of the best animated features of 2013. It has a very strong shot to make my “best of the year” list. This is a movie no one should miss.