by RICHARD DAVID SMITH III
Being a grown man who doesn’t smoke weed, assessing the value of cartoon movies has never been an easy undertaking for me, so I would be remiss if I didn’t bring along with me my most valuable measuring devise for determining the quality of a children’s movie: my 20-month-year-old son, Rex Justiss. Rug rat in tow, I made my way into a packed theater screening of Despicable Me 2, where I made the unholy mistake of showing up only fifteen minutes before the movie’s starting time. I was left with what looked like a great seat in the back corner of the theater, but what turned out to be the megaplex equivalent of one of the Bob Uecker seats—the infamous seats in the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park that only cost one dollar, yet are placed directly behind support beams that completely obstruct the view. In order to avoid watching the movie from a partially obscured vantage point, I decided to stand for this movie while my lovely and patient wife, Shethy, sat and corralled Rex for the duration of the film (which, as any parent knows, is not an easy task).
Despicable Me 2 places Steve Carell-voiced Gru–the super-villain who tried to shrink and steal the moon in the original—in a Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs type-role…minus the whole cannibalism part. Now a legit businessman making a line of jams and jellies and raising the three girls (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher) he adopted in Despicable Me, Gru has left his life of crime behind. We begin by watching Gru humorously trudging through his suburban life as you imagine a super-villain would before he is suddenly approached, rather forcefully, by the Anti-Villain League (AVL). You see, the AVL wants to utilize Gru’s evil mastermind abilities to help solve a mysterious crime in which someone stole an entire laboratory—yes, an entire laboratory—containing the PX41 transmutation serum, a chemical that can turn the cuddliest of animals into rabid, carnivorous beasts.
Initially, Gru sternly rejects the idea of being a top secret spy, citing his duty as a father to his three girls, but changes his mind after his gadget man, Dr. Nefario (voiced by real-life bad boy Russell Brand), decides to leave him for another job opportunity because he misses being evil. Upon agreeing to aid the good guys, Gru is paired with agent Lucy Wilde (voiced by the always delightful Kristen Wiig), who is a little loose with her lipstick taser, and they direct their sleuth work at a mall. Working undercover at the mall as the owner/operator of a cupcake shop—where the comedy of a villain running a pastry shop writes itself—Gru immediately suspects that the serum was stolen by the owner of the Mexican restaurant, Eduardo Perez, who he believes is a disguised El Macho, a super-villain so badass that the event necessary to “kill” him was riding a shark strapped to dynamite into an active volcano. Not everyone in the AVL is convinced of Gru’s theory, however, and complicating matters for Gru is his daughter Margo’s sudden crush on Eduardo’s son, the suave Antonio. It is only when Eduardo kindly invites everyone in the mall to his Cinco de Mayo party that some of the details of the case begin to become apparent. [Interesting side note: Instead of Benjamin Bratt, Al Pacino was originally cast to play Eduardo, but left the film due to creative differences. I wonder what that discussion was like.] Despicable Me 2 is a wonderful children’s movie. You have the option of watching it in 3D, but the 3D effects are nothing spectacular, and seem more like a formality to keep up with the current 3D craze than a necessary or awe-inspiring component of the film’s visual style. Save your money there; it will be just as enjoyable without the effect. Despicable Me 2 earns my respect for not trying too hard to inundate the film with adult references or, worse, cringe-worthy political statements. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a few mature or edgy nods to the adults (they are the ones paying for it, after all), but too often the writers of children’s movies get too cute with this gimmick and forget who the real audience is…the children. Despicable Me 2 doesn’t forget for one moment who this movie is intended to entertain. Oh, and if you don’t realize going in that Gru’s Minions are the true stars of the show, then your children will make you well aware of this fact before the movie is over (and probably afterwards in the form of bugging you for Minion-related merchandise). Don’t worry, Hollywood is one step ahead; a Minions movie is already scheduled for release in 2014. Even at 20 months of age, my son, Rex, made his appreciation of the Minions known, and witnessing the pleasure he derived from seeing those little yellow henchmen clumsily scurry about a colossal screen is, for parents like me, what a movie like Despicable Me 2 is all about.
DESPICABLE ME 2 movie review
by RICHARD DAVID SMITH III