In its frantic, Looney Tunes-style madness, Despicable Me 2 brings to mind a cautionary children?s story about an aspiring baker who learns the hard way that doubling the recipe for bread doesn?t mean doubling the baking time. It tries so hard to double your pleasure that it emerges from the test kitchen slightly burned. Like the jams and jellies that its reformed main character, Gru, makes in his new line of work, the film combines too many flavors, along with extra sugar. Once again, the lesson that more is not necessarily better, something rarely learned by blockbuster sequels, is forgotten.
That said, the new movie - concocted by the same hands (the directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and the screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) who were behind the first Despicable Me - is consistently diverting and so cute you?ll want to pet it. Yet it is also weightless and lacks a center. Which isn?t to deny its inventiveness in imagining zany, whiz-bang gadgetry and its considerable achievement in the creation of a puffed-up Latin American villain who steals the spotlight from Gru (the voice of Steve Carell), the first film?s beaky, Shrek-like central character.
Gru has come a long way since he aspired to be the world?s worst bad guy in the original movie. His cold heart has thawed since his adoption of three little girls. Despite his funny multinational accent, the reformed Gru is something of a bore.
The domestication of this once-fearsome grouch continues in Despicable Me 2. Gru, with his hearing-impaired mad scientist partner, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), has started a jam-and-jelly business whose tasteless products nobody wants. Just as his operation is about to fail, Gru is hired by the Anti-Villain League to locate a world-class baddie who uses a flying magnet to steal a secret research lab in the Arctic Circle. The lab has perfected a serum that causes grotesque mutations. Gru and his sidekick, the practical, no-nonsense Lucy (Kristen ...Wiig), pose as store owners in a shopping mall where the stolen serum is thought be hidden.
A prime suspect is Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the gregarious, preening owner of the mall?s Mexican restaurant, Salsa & Salsa. He bears a suspicious resemblance to El Macho, a legendary outlaw who supposedly died while riding a shark into an active volcano with explosives strapped on his back. Sure enough, they are one and the same. Eduardo?s son, Antonio (Moises Arias), who struts around like a shifty-eyed teenage Valentino, takes an instant shine to Gru?s eldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), who swoons at the first sight of him.
An early sign that Gru has a formidable foe is the capture by magnet of his legion of cute, obedient yellow Minions, whom the serum transforms into an enemy force of furry purple warriors. But like Margo?s ill-fated crush, the premise is rushed; an antidote to the serum is concocted almost as soon as the mass abduction takes place.
Meanwhile, Gru?s youngest daughter, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), dreams that Lucy might become her new mother. This fantasy is the ickier side of a movie that crosses the line from sweet to saccharine. It is not a good sign for the future of this franchise that Despicable Me 2 might as well be waving a sign that pleads, ?Love me, love me, love me!?
Despicable Me 2
Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin; written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio; edited by Gregory Perler; songs and themes by Pharrell Williams, score by Heitor Pereira; production design by Yarrow Cheney and Eric Guillon; produced by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. With the voices of: Steve Carell (Gru), Kristen Wiig (Lucy), Benjamin Bratt (Eduardo/El Macho), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo), Russell Brand (Dr. Nefario), Steve Coogan (Silas Ramsbottom), Ken Jeong (Floyd), Elsie Fisher (Agnes), Dana Gaier (Edith) and Moises Arias (Antonio).
Despicable Me 2 is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested) for rude humour.
? 2013 New York Times News Service