This was a guest review submitted by William Derbyshire. Thanks William! You can submit your own reviews to SquidFlicks here.
The first Despicable Me took me completely by surprise back in 2010. Recommended by my youngest sister Jenny and with nothing to do one Saturday afternoon, I decided to use my gut instinct and went to see it despite the trailers and adverts making it look like kids’ stuff. How misled was I! What surprised me was the idea, which I liked from watching the previews, was how original, fresh and unique it was. Not to mention, highly imaginative, weirdly moving and utterly hilarious like the best out of Pixar. The crew behind it had obviously considered developing the story to be more important rather than gathering up the biggest A-star voice cast, which is why some non-Shrek DreamWorks animations tend to misfire. In short, it was different (in a good way) and a total riot.
It’s hard to describe the concept of Despicable Me in a nutshell, so I’ll try my best: Imagine Blofeld from You Only Live Twice in the position of Carl Frederickson, the grumpy old man from Up with three little orphaned girls in the place of a chubby boy scout, an outlandish plan, not to attach balloons to his house or start World War III but to steal the moon – sorry, Wallace & Gromit, cheese is off the menu – all in the hope of doing his hard-to-please mother proud…I know, that’s a bit too long, isn’t it?
Anyway, like most animated films these days, this unexpected hit that’s appeared out of nowhere has been given a sequel. Was it worth it, especially as the first film more or less worked as a stand-alone story?
Well, not only does Despicable Me 2 beat its predecessor but it squeezes practically everything that was fun about the original, irons out its problems by giving us a better plotline and ‘second’ villain (Vector was slightly irritating), throwing in more uproariously funny gags, mostly in the form of yellow pill-shaped gibberish-talking Minions, who are like Oompa-Loompas with ADHD, belting one-liners that will have you quoting in the car on the way back home thanks to a corking script and sending-up the spy genre with the famous underwater sequence from The Spy Who Loved Me, lovingly ripped-off for your amusement…or annoyance. DM2 may not be The Dark Knight of animated sequels, that honour still goes to Toy Story 2, but it’s certainly in the same league as that along with TS3, and if Monsters University doesn’t beat it as this year’s top animation, you’ll have difficulty finding anything of the sort that’s either better or enjoyable.
Like Spider-Man 2, DM2 doesn’t waste too much time either introducing, or re-introducing, the main characters or remind the audience what happened previously the moment it starts. It just kicks off the story and gets on with it. The main hero/villain Gru, is now a doting dad to Margo, Edith and Agnes. Not that he’s the most fatherly of fathers, judging by the fact he lets unattended children wander into an iron maiden and leaves bear traps in the garden at kids’ birthday parties. Steve Carrell has done very well for himself given that he stole Jim Carrey’s almighty thunder playing what was a minor – and funny – role as Bruce’s rival Evan and starred in the US version of The Office, and voices Gru with great aplomb…and a peculiar accent. As for the three young lasses, Miranda Cosgrove (Summer from School of Rock) along with Dana Gier and Elsie Kate Fisher voice them like they’ve never grown up since they last provided them with dialogue. Gru hasn’t been planning some spectacular heist down in his basement since we last saw him. He’s been making jam, like Willy Wonka except probably deadlier, with the help of his useful if useless scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, doing probably the only good thing he’s ever done. Sorry, I’m not a fan of his).
This sequel, like most animated ones, could have just easily been a futile attempt to cash in on the success of the first film with Gru turning evil once again for some silly reason or another, but thankfully DM2 feels fresh and doesn’t show any desperate signs of being a shoddy cash-cow. Instead of outdoing a baddie, Gru has to track down a baddie for the Anti-Villain League run by the posh Silas Ramsbottom, voiced by Steven Coogan although he sounds more like Timothy Spall, with the help of agent Lucy Wilde, a character who wouldn’t look out of place in a Dr. Seuss book/movie, perkily voiced by Kristen Wiig. They’re assigned to go undercover to track down a hazardous substance that can transform anyone unlucky enough to test it out, consume it or have it touch them into deadly, ferocious creatures that are like a cross between The Were-Rabbit and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. and these two unlikely spies have to team up to do what it takes to trace it, whether it’s baking cupcakes or doing battle with a “fowl”-tempered pet, but with the two falling head over heels for one another, might the pairing of this odd couple lead to something more eternal?
You can predict where this is probably going but with such genius stuff going on, the absurd but inventive plot isn’t really the most important aspect, something rare in a CG film where story is normally a vital issue. The film runs at a terrific pace without taking any unnecessary detours or slowing down particularly for a couple of sad scenes which fortunately just come and go before they get too gooey. The animation is sublime, the slapstick comedy harks back to the heyday of Chuck Jones and possibly Fred Quimby, the Minions totally steal the show as expected and even enjoy a moment in the sun, plus the 3-D is the most impressive in ages. So, should there really be anything to complain about?
Well, the girls and Nefario don’t have much of an essential part to play unlike previously and are pretty much left out in the rain. Also, the origins of Mexican restaurateur Ecuador (Benjamin Bratt) aren’t really explained all that well. But these are only minor protests and it’s pitiful of me to be so picky about such an entertaining movie with a gloriously loony finale and a rendition of Y.M.C.A. you won’t find anywhere else.
Despicable Me 2 is the best second film in an animated franchise since Toy Story 2 and the most fun and hilarious of its kind in the last couple of years. Absolutely brilliant.