Review: DESPICABLE ME 2 Is Even Weaker Than the First One

Eric D. Snider, Featured Critic

In the pilot episode of the animated sitcom Despicable Me -- which somehow appeared in movie theaters, despite clearly being meant for TV -- we were introduced to Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a comically accented supervillain who adopted three little orphan girls as part of a nefarious scheme, only to find that their presence in his life softened his heart and inspired him to stop being evil.

The second episode of the series -- called Despicable Me 2 and somehow also mistakenly released in cinemas -- continues in that limp, unimaginative vein, with a humdrum story set almost entirely in a suburban shopping mall. There's a subplot with one of the girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), developing her first crush on a boy. Gru tentatively dips his toe in the dating scene. There's a bit where Gru wants little Agnes (Elsie Fisher) to tell a visitor that he's not home, and he uses pantomime to indicate what lies he wants her to tell, and Agnes misinterprets the signs and gives nonsense excuses. You may recognize this gag -- indeed, all of this -- from every laugh-track sitcom you've ever seen.

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that a watered-down premise would get even blander in the sequel, but it's disappointing to see just how far it's fallen. Now fully domesticated and lacking any humorous edge, Gru takes an assignment from the Anti-Villain League to find a bad guy who has stolen a dangerous serum. The villain is believed to be using a store at the mall as a front for his operation, but they don't know which store. So Gru, aided by AVL agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), goes undercover as the proprietor of a bakery to scope out the neighbors. These include Floyd (Ken Jeong), who has a wig shop, and Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the swaggering, macho owner of a Mexican restaurant.

Meanwhile, Gru's resident mad scientist, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), leaves Gru's operation in search of greener, eviler pastures. The Twinkie-esque Minions are still faithful, though, jabbering away in their cute fashion and earning every one of the few laughs the movie has to offer. But whoever the villain is (no prizes for guessing), he's got designs on the Minions, too. How do they figure into his dastardly plan?

There was no change in creative personnel between the first film and this one; it's still directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. How, then, could they have so drastically miscalculated what does and doesn't work with these characters? The three girls are amusing; they're hardly in the film. The way the girls influence the curmudgeonly Gru has potential; it's relegated to the opening sequence. Gru himself is not a funny character, except in the loose sense that "having a funny accent" equals "being funny," and his interactions with the ill-defined Lucy are flavorless. The plot is perfunctory, as if pulled from a random, non-special issue of a third-tier comic book.

But will your kids like it? Sure, probably! What don't your kids like? I'm not saying it won't pass the time agreeably for the under-10 crowd. I'm just saying it's not a good movie. Have you seen Monsters University yet?

despicable-me-2-photo-02-630.jpg


Despicable Me 2 opens wide in theatres across North America on Wednesday, July 3.

Around the Internet:
  • Pa Kent Says Maybe

    Wait. You're saying MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is great, original cinema?

    Jeez. I was all-the-way with you right up until you exposed yourself as a Pixar fanboy.

    I really, REALLY like the "what don't your kids like?" line, though. Gotta admit: That was ACES. That line describes all of contemporary movie fandom, no matter what their age.

    What don't your action fans like?

    What don't your Marvel superhero dweebs like?

    What don't your, oh --- I dunno --- people who follow Hugh Jackman's career like?

    Brilliant!

  • MsJack

    He gave *Monsters University* a B, vs. a C- for this movie. I think his point is that MU is a good movie, not "great, original cinema," whereas DM2 is just mediocre. (In his opinion.)

    That said, MU is 78% on Rotten Tomatoes while this film is 74%, so plenty of others liked this film just as much as they did MU.

  • That's fundamentally NOT how Rotten Tomatoes works. RT does not gauge how much people like something, only if a review could be termed positive or negative overall. For example, if 95% of reviewers thought a film was 60% good, that film would have an RT score of 90 while if 80% of reviewers thought a film was 95% good, that film would have an RT score of 80.

    Only way to know how much people actually liked it is to go and read the individual reviews. All the RT score says here is that 74% of reviewers thought the film was at least mediocre.

  • BeeDub

    Which is why I prefer Metacritic.com to RT. Try it, it's fun!

  • MsJack

    >>>RT does not gauge how much people like something, only if a review could be termed positive or negative overall.<<<

    This is technically true, but if you look through the scores for individual critics for these two films, you'll see that many of them *did* give the two films comparable grades. Lots of 3/5s, 3/4s, 2.5/4s, etc. I don't claim to be a routine connoisseur of RT, but if it's common on RT for two films with comparable % scores to have a wide variance in actual grades, I was not aware.

  • Chuck

    Eh it wasn't all bad, remember this is meant for CHILDREN not a high piece of art and my kids (under the age of 6) loved it. I think you are looking waaaay too far into a kids movie that is clearly meant for the little ones.

  • As a parent I object STRONGLY to the idea that kid's movies can't also be GOOD movies. Brushing off poor storytelling because, hey, it's 'only for kids' is deplorable, in my opinion. Distracting them with bright colors and blinky lights is not enough and parents should aim higher.

  • JimHat

    True. Probably not very fair to be considering it from a 40 year old's perspective, anyway. My cousin's kids yucked it up from start to finish, so i've been told.

  • Steve

    "But will your kids like it? Sure, probably! What don't your kids like? I'm not saying it won't pass the time agreeably for the under-10 crowd. I'm just saying it's not a good movie. Have you seen Monsters University yet?"

  • JimHat

    THANK you.

    Geez, didn't anyone else happen to notice just how shee-ITE this pile of dross was the first time around?

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​