With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand. Written by Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Rated PG for rude humor and mild action. 98 minutes.
Gru (voice of Steve Carell) is back to save the world and the summer at the movies. When we last saw him he had become the world’s biggest villain by stealing the moon, but the love of the three little girls he adopted as part of his nefarious scheme transformed him to be a softy. As DESPICABLE ME 2 opens, Gru has gone straight and become a suburban single father, with neighbors trying fix him up on dates.
There’s a convoluted plot where Gru is recruited against his will by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent of the Anti-Villain League, so that he may track down a dangerous formula which has been traced to a local mall. He and Lucy will pretend to run the local cupcake store while really checking out the other store owners. It’s just as well because Gru’s new business of making a fruit jelly concoction has not only turned out something inedible, but has cause his long-time associate Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) to seek out more villainous associates.
Fortunately, Gru’s adorable Minions are back and they are as hilarious as ever. Voiced, in part, by co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, they are riotous wee clowns who can constantly reinvent themselves as the situation warrants. It’s impossible not to smile and laugh when they’re on screen. We’ll see if that can be too much of a good thing next year when “Minions” is scheduled to be released.
Meanwhile, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), the oldest of the three girls, has discovered boys… much to Gru’s dislike. It gets even more complicated when she’s romanced by the son of Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), proprietor of the mall’s Mexican restaurant and a prime suspect in his investigation. It all works out at the end with a hilarious finale and then a credits sequence that makes the 3D glasses worth it for a change.
It’s interesting to contrast this with the summer’s other blockbuster animated sequel, “Monsters University.” Both follow up superb originals, but “Monsters University” gets lazy in the character development. We’re supposed to like the main characters because we were already won over in “Monsters, Inc.” The filmmakers don’t make that mistake with “Despicable Me 2.” Gru faces new challenges – and a loss – right at the start. We’re on his side because of his obvious devotion to his little girls, even dressing up as a fairy princess for a birthday party when the performer he had hired can’t make it.
There is continual comic invention as well as a hilarious twist involving the Minions that reminds us of just how important they are to the film’s success. We’re invested in the outcome of the story even as we’re laughing and know it has to come out okay. Gru might hate this characterization since he is an ex-villain, but “Despicable Me 2” is the feel good movie of the summer.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.