Giggly fans of the original will be OK with it, but you can’t help but feel an absence of dazzle and awe. Despicable Me 2 has turned Gru (Steve Carell) from a supervillain of its predecessor into a curmudgeon out to help the good guys, the Anti-Villain League, capture another bona fide villain. When Gru is scoundrel-like, he’s curiously irresistible. But his character is stuck in a non-offensive mode in this sequel. Nobody can dislike the yellow pill-shaped minions though, but even though we get to spend more time with them than the last time out, we wish we could get to know their names. The advertising material is giving the minions specific names, while the movie refrains and pulls away.
Gru is now more Dad than villain. His adopted girls are more lovey and devoted to Dad in this sequel, who push Dad to re-enter the dating scene. Why bother with online dating though when there’s Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an Anti-Villain League agent who is daffy and a little sinful herself? She’s a match made in Gru heaven.
The adventurous pairing of Gru and Lucy should take them somewhere, err, great. Somehow, the movie takes us to the mall. The new villain, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), is running a Mexican restaurant as a cover. Gru has a phony cupcake operation he opens so he can spy on his business neighbor. At least it’s convenient that when Dad’s at work, his little girls can cruise the other stores and food plaza.
But gee. While intermittently silly and goofy, the sequel doesn’t excite you. One, a shopping mall lacks the kind of juice that you get from seeing a true villain’s evil secret lair. And two, El Macho doesn’t really… say anything far-out or even interesting. The underwater Anti-Villain League lair is easily more fantastic, and not enough time is spent there. And Gru, now something of a hero, is a little warmed over this time. Kidnapped minions get injected by purple-beastie serum, and it’s fun for a few moments to watch them fight their inner demons.
Certain lines and visual gags make “Despicable Me 2” more clever than the rather inane “Monsters University” that currently is ruling the family box office. But while it’s gonna make some silly family movie devotees happy, it lacks a certain something that made the first movie naughty fun. It’s a little safe, a little neutered, a little too mind-wandering. I can see another sequel improving on this installment.
98 Minutes. Rated PG.
FAMILY MOVIE / GOOFY / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE
Film Cousins: “The Incredibles” (2004); “Get Smart” (2008); “Despicable Me” (2010); “Megamind” (2010).