A spy’s game – It’s no secret that animation in film has come a long way since the days of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, one of the first full-length animated films to exist. You know, back when actual storyboard artists were hired to develop and produce the actual timeline on a piece of paper to pin to a bulletin board. It goes without saying that Hollywood has come a long way in 75 years in the world of film, especially with animated films. But, no matter how advanced the animation might be, it will mean nothing without a good story. Pixar has been king because of that one simple fact, but recent stumbles have brought their competition closer. And “Despicable Me 2” is a prime example of that, having already earned $587.8 million worldwide at the box office, a good $54 million past Pixar’s “Monster’s University,” which came out over a month ago.
What’s it about? Having not seen the original, I’m not really sure how close this story follows its predecessor. But, it all starts after a top secret lab containing a mutating compound is stolen by a giant magnet that could fly. Worried over what might happen if put into the wrong hands, the Anti-Villian League find former super-villian Gru (Voiced by Steve Carell) and abduct him. After meeting the AVL’s director Silas Ramsbottom, Gru is asked to help them track down who stole this compound. Initially refusing to help, Gru is later forced to change his mind when his partner Dr. Nefario (Voiced by Russell Brand) quits to go be ‘evil’ again. Paired with Lucy (Voiced by Kristen Wiig), the two attempt to locate the mutagen in a local mall while acting as owners of a cupcake shop. But, doing so would not be easy given all the self-inflicted distractions both in and out of the mall eventually leading to a wild showdown with the mysterious perpetrator that might have you laughing and crying.
Who was in it? I don’t know how he did it, but Steve Carell has made Gru a memorable character. I’ll admit, when I first saw this character come onto the scene a few years ago, I looked the other direction. It just didn’t look all that great to me, which is why I never watched it. But, having a 7-year-old and 4-year-old can change things quickly, leaving me little choice but to go watch this sequel. So, I did and it’s a good thing because had I not, I would not have been blown away with how unique Carell has made this character. Maybe it’s easier than I think, but Carell doing that voice for any period of time has got to be exhausting. Yeah, I know gigs like this are what stars like him dream of, but it still takes the right voice inflection and timing to pull off. He was great, but hearing Kristen Wiig behind Lucy didn’t hurt. Even in animation films like this, it takes a good pair of stars to make a story that much better. And while this had its ups and downs, Carell and Wiig made sure it stayed entertaining. Without that combination or the Minions, I doubt this would have been as good as it was. Sure other members of the cast chimed in when needed, like Benjamin Bratt’s El Macho, but none were as prominent as Carell and Wiig.
Misdirected heroism – Call me a hypocrite if you want, but seeing this film makes me want to go watch the first one. That’s a good compliment for what director’s Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud did here with their sequel. I say ‘their’ sequel, because they were also directors of the original film, a rare fact in the world of computer-animation. Plus, Coffin also voiced the hilarious minions again, which I have to give him credit for. Sure, we have no idea what they are saying, but who cares when they are that funny. Keeping with that slapstick humor works for this now series, so it will be interesting to see what Coffin does with the spinoff, “Minions,” set to be released toward the end of 2014. If it’s anything like what we saw here and what I assume took place in the original, it might even be more of a hit. Because when you combine the incredible visuals that are almost a given nowadays, with an inventive story loaded with humor, it’s hard to beat. This formula within this genre has been working more and more recently, so I give Illumination Entertainment kudos for sticking with what works. They may be a small production company compared to a Pixar or DreamWorks Animation, but they make up for it with their slick storylines and genuine humor.
Bottom Line – Never having watched the original, I can’t say how far removed “Despicable Me 2” was or wasn’t. But, it was funny and had a good story, a combination that just works behind the incredible visuals and animation that accompany it. So, if you have kids, this is certainly one worth the price of missed naps and a sugar high.
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