A charmingly hilarious animated movie came out in 2010 about a villain, voiced by a popular comedian, who learned how much more satisfying life is when you choose love over world domination.
That movie was Megamind.
Despicable Me was also good, but traded sharp comedy and classic timing for toothless action and overly cute children. (It was the Monsters, Inc. to Megamind’s Shrek, if you will.) Even so, it made over $250 million, so audiences are now treated to Despicable Me 2.
Steve Carell returns as the voice of Gru, as does Russell Brand as Gru’s assistant Dr. Nefario, and both do a great job again of twisting their voices while still remaining slightly recognizable. Kristen Wiig also returns, but now plays Lucy, an Anti-Villain League agent who seems predictably destined to become Gru’s love interest ten minutes into the movie.
The confusing yet forgettable plot revolves around a new villain who uses a giant magnet to steal an arctic research station, where scientists have been working on a chemical that turns the cute, yellow minions who stole the first movie into rabid, indestructible, purple minions with longer hair and slightly crazed eyes.
For reasons that never seem satisfactory, the government agency AVL decides Gru is the only person who can track down this new supervillain, which leads to the new father figure abandoning his adopted children for most of the movie to work in a mall shop with Lucy while they spy on villainous suspects. Meanwhile, all of Gru’s minions, also left alone and feeling as unnecessary as Scrat in the Ice Age sequels, begin to get abducted.
The plot threads of Gru and Lucy, Gru’s three daughters, and the abducted minions never feel like they have much to do with each other, even when the script awkwardly tries to collide them together. They’re entertaining enough in the moment – perfect for young children with short attention spans – but without a solid through line, it just feels like three unrelated TV cartoons haphazardly spliced together.
All of those problems wouldn’t matter as much if the movie were at least funny, instead of resorting to low-aiming fat jokes, gay jokes, and fart jokes. (This may well be the first movie where the Chekhov’s gun of the plot shoots fart clouds.) Not until the last few minutes, when the minions perform a gibberish version of All-4-One’s “I Swear” and a slapstick montage during the credits, does Despicable Me 2 reach the same comedic heights of the first movie. By that point, though, it just feels like too little too late.