Thursday, July 18, 2013

Despicable Me 2

Get out your fart cannons and lipstick Tasers, we're reviewing Despicable Me!

Gru (Steve Carell) is settling down with the girls, but when a new mysterious villain arrives on the scene, the Anti-Villain League contracts him to find out who it is and what their evil scheme could be. Can Gru, with his new partner, Lucy (Kristen Wig), thwart evil before it is too late?

I'm honestly surprised how much of the movie was hidden from audiences until now. The trailers barely showed anything about the story, and that's a rare feat in today's movie world where every big movie gets a teaser, 3 trailers 4 featurettes, and 6 TV spots. It's an admirable feat. Of course, a lot of good it did, considering the story isn’t really worth it.

The first Despicable Me (if you haven't seen it, you should), was a delightful surprise of great animation, great character moments, and minimal acting. This one? Not so much. I guess I was just expecting so much more from the creators of such an original animation, and not this soulless sequel. Well, it's not entirely that. but it’s not great.

To start off with the good: the animation and character designs are still fantastic. The animation is smooth, everything pops, and the textures look really nice. I love the designs on the new gadgets and vehicles. This is a movie that was made specifically for 3D with lots of stuff jumping out at you and breathtaking action shots. If you choose to see it in theaters, the 3D is well worth it. And I still love the girls and how much Gru cares for them. The girls are great mini role models and I love how much of a range of different girls they are. Agnes loves unicorns and fairies, Edith loves swords and ninjas, and Margo loves… boys. They're pretty great characters. Gru always feels and sounds like Gru, as Carell has seamlessly integrated into his part, and the rest of the cast have a ton of fun with their respective roles as well.

I also love Kristen Wig's new character, Lucy. She's the perfect combo of silly and bad-ass that really plays off well with Gru's ridiculous scheming  She feels like a solid character, and their interactions come off really natural. Which makes it all the more frustrating when she turns into nothing more than a damsel in distress. Seriously. I don't know how that happened. I was sure she was going to save Gru in the end, and I was certain they knew better than to bring out that tired old trope, but apparently not. I know she's supposed to be a rookie, but it lessens the coolness she's earned up to this point when she's kidnapped off screen. Also, his mother was cut out completely. I have to wonder if her voice actor didn't return or if they just didn't write any parts for her. It's odd.

Like Lucy, the movie starts strong but then meanders off into nowhere and ends up laid out, face-down in a cliché. Is there a term for "guessing who it’s going to be, being surprised it’s not who you thought, but also annoyed it’s not as good as your idea would be"? Because that's how I feel. I technically have to give them points for surprising me, but it's surprising in just how obvious\ it was. You'd think they would have more of a story. There's also a lot of stuff in the middle with people trying to find a girlfriend for Gru, and Gru going on dates and things which I could care less about. What I think is really interesting? Margo getting into dating, Gru reacting, and Margo going through the obvious break-up. Yet, there's not much of that there. You'd think maybe that might be a good way to consider turning super-villain? But nope, it’s pretty much forgotten after it ran its course.

Near the end, the villain wants Gru to join him in his evil plan, and there's literally no doubt that Gru will stay good. It's kind of nice that he's sure he'd rather stay with the girls, but there's no conflict at all as to whether he wants to go back to being evil or stay good. They didn't set up anything for that. They could have, and it would have been a good story, but nope, nothing. And the ending has such a hugely easy Deus Ex Machina, you wonder why they even bothered with the scheme in the first place. It's annoying how they did so much with the last movie and at least set-up something cool in the beginning, but did nothing with it. I have to wonder if they ran out of time or money on the production halfway through and had to rush to finish it. 

It's an alright animation, it's still pretty silly and fun, and the minions definitely help. All the voice actors are fun to listen to and it's beautiful, especially in 3D, but it doesn't have the magic or originality of the first despicable me. 

THE GOOD: Great animation, great character design, three girls are fun-loving, cool gadgets, good voice acting, pretty funny, good 3D.

THE BAD: cliché story and trope-filled ending, Lucy becomes a damsel in distress, nothing really original, deus ex machina. 

THE VERDICT: $$$ It's a definite maybe. If you really want to see the animation, especially with the 3D, it's pretty fun, especially for kids, but if you wanted to wait until it was streaming or on DVD, that would be ok, too.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Despicable Me, Megamind, The Incredibles 

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: When Gru first meets Lucy, one of his minions sees Lucy and instantly falls in love with her. That could be a pretty funny premise, if the minion is fighting for Lucy's affections and Gru isn't even trying, except his love is never mentioned again for the rest of the movie. 

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