Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Despicable Me 2

Title: Despicable Me 2

Since When Do They Let Supervillains Adopt Children? Blame Madonna.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three nacho hats out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Former bad guy helps track down current bad guy; learns to love again.

Tagline: "When the world needed a hero, they called a villain."

Better Tagline: "Still probably better than any Pixar prequel/sequel you're going to see this year."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Now a happy father of three, Gru (Steve Carrell) is content to spend time with his girls and attempt to get his new business selling jams and jellies off the ground. But when persons unknown make off with an entire top secret research lab (and the mutagenic formula it was working on), he's forced to make a not altogether difficult choice between humdrum normal life and the thrills of espionage. And it doesn't hurt that there's a romantic interest this time around.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: See it. There's some fine animation here, and some serious laughs, if that makes any sense.

"Critical" Analysis: If you never saw the first Despicable Me, you'll be happy to know the sequel doesn't require you to be overly familiar with the back story. Gru used to be a supervillain, and now he's a more or less honest enterpeneur trying to raise his three adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).

Though it'd be interesting to find out if the first movie explained why three young girls were given old lady names.

Not that there's much about the difficulties of being a parent or anything. When you command seemingly limitless R&D funding and an army of obedient (if scatological) "Minions" you can task with babysitting as well as sacrificing themselves at your whim, the normal daily demands on your time most parents deal with aren't really an issue. Who's bitter?

Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud take things in a slightly different direction, introducing the (presumably) heretofore single Gru to the concept of romance. To that end, there's Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent with the Anti-Villain League who becomes Gru's partner in attempting to track down the chemical thief. Will this be confusing to small children? Or "gross" to older ones? Do you care? It's 97 degrees out there and you need a cool place to take the screeching brats for a couple hours. They should be thankful you're not making them watch Fast and Furious 6 again.

Besides, there are plenty of the requisite shout-outs to prevent parents from completely regretting their choice of movies. There's a Minion Isaac the Bartender, for example, and an homage to "Duck Amuck" during the end credits. Least favorite: the "Y.M.C.A." closing number. Rest assured, it is in no way homophobic to express a desire for that song to be blasted from the Earth with nuclear fire.

Finally, we should probably address the villain of the film, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). On one hand, his alter ego ("Eduardo Perez") is a successful restaurateur and model citizen (who also just happens to have a Mexican flag tattooed to his chest). On the other, El Macho wears a luchador mask and a gold chain. And his name is "El Macho." Is that better or worse than a main character who dresses like Dieter from Sprockets and speaks with a vaguely Eastern European accent? 

Still, it isn't as if Coffin and Renaud are trying to reinvent the franchise, as they once again draw heavily from old Daffy Duck cartoons and Mad Magazine's "Spy vs. Spy." They also wisely keep things moving, never letting the action scenes continue for their own sake, and how refreshing it is to have a climactic action sequence that doesn't drag on for 30 minutes (*cough* Peter Jackson *cough).

Despicable Me 2 is in theaters today. Have you considered what you'd do if your family was horribly mutated?

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar