‘Despicable Me 2’ story as thin as Gru’s odd legs

July 14, 2013

Despicable Me and its sequel have two features that pull it ahead of the Pixar-wannabe pack: an animation style with a decidedly European flair, and The Minions.

The fact that the film was created by a Parisian studio (Mac Guff) and written and directed by artists from France and Spain contribute largely to the first.

The Minions, however, are something I both cherish and fear.

They are delightfully dunderheaded little yellow lightbulbs with googly eyes that bring both films much of its comic relief. But, like many a charming scene-stealing sidekick, studios often feel the need to dedicate entire features to them that often fail to recognize we love them partly because of their brevity on the screen (see “American Pie's” Stiffler for a prime example).

In "Despicable Me 2," the Minions have even more than their fair share of screen time, but it's still in fits and starts, giving enough time to dedicate to the further adventures of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his three adopted moppets.

We first encounter them at a birthday party for this youngest, who desperately awaits the appearance of a fairy princess. When the winged highness is a no-show, Gru crams himself into a pink tutu and wings to appease the masses. It's quite a different way of life from that of world-dominating villainy, but be seems to be adapting quite well.

His happy home life is disrupted when he gets a call from the Anti-Villain League, who needs him to help with its mission: a mutant-spawning serum has been stolen from a military facility and it is thought to be found at a local shopping mall. Gru is now on the other side of justice in an attempt to bring down another evil genius and save the world instead of destroying or ruling it.

He's convinced that it's none other than a Mexican restaurant owner (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), who bears a striking resemblance to a former bad guy named El Macho, presumed dead after he rode an explosives-strapped shark into an active volcano. Yup.

Things get muddied while his children attempt to find romance for Gru, and when Lucy Wilde (voiced by Kristen Wiig), an agent from the Anti-Villainy League, arrives, they are convinced she's the perfect match for their dad.

It's all perfectly modest, non-threatening family fare that will suffice on a hot summer day, but I never once felt as though things progressed much further with its characters. Gru's still got a gold heart under his tough exterior; he's still placed in silly predicaments that are not befitting a guy who once had total domination in mind; his children are all adorably endearing; and the Minions still manage to throw various monkey wrenches in things while remaining irresistibly silly.

But, to align it with the current animation touchstone, Pixar, this felt more like “Cars 2" than "Toy Story 2." The story is as thin as Gru’s odd legs, and its plot merits a holiday TV special at best. The Minions pop up to prop up the plodding plot, but “2” uses them a bit more frequently and I fear that their amusing antics may tire by the inevitable round 3 of the franchise and once again prove to be too much of a good thing.

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