Despicable Me 2 feels inauthentic, as if it’s lost a sense of what made the first film in 2010 such a breakout success. In Despicable Me, Gru (voiced wonderfully by Steve Carell) was a villain who had plans to steal the moon, and the idea of making a villain a main character worked well on the movie’s fairly light premise. It wasn’t a very strong emotional film, like Pixar’s or even certain Dreamworks’ efforts, but it had a zippy flair to it that made it charming and funny. Here, with a sequel three years later, the formula’s been destroyed and Gru is a good guy, taking care of Agnes and his other little ones. He still has his Minions, and his gadgets, but we’ve seen all of them before.
The broad, physical humor is still funny and fast, as always, but it grows tiresome. Like most basic humor, it overstays its welcome, and considering the film has a thin plot pertaining to another villain stealing a serum that poses a threat, it doesn’t really work. We never see the true extent of how this serum could destroy the world, only that it’s a little bit dangerous, and the world isn’t established very well. No stakes are anywhere to be found, with the film’s conclusion being resolved on a very simple, painfully lazy savior. The movie feels lazy because it’s not trying to be anything but safe.
The Minions are the highlight, and Agnes and her sisters are adorable and innocent. Yet the film’s woefully immature and heavily geared toward kids, to the point that adults have to endure a lot of bad jokes to get to a few giggles. I wanted to see Gru acting as a villain throughout the film, doing dastardly things that would have consequences. Instead, the film’s animation is wonderfully done but also ludicrous, making it difficult as an audience member to be invested in anything. And the film’s 3D is fine enough, with some nice pop-outs and impressive visuals, but it can only enhance the feature so much. This is a marked step down from the first feature, and another animated entry in 2013 (joining The Croods and Epic) that doesn’t deliver.
Grade: ★★½ (out of 5)