Stars: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Ken Jeong, Russell Brand, Elsie Fisher, Moises Arias, Dana Gaier, Benjamin Bratt, Steve Coogan | Written by Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul | Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Despicable Me was one of those films that came out at around about the same time as another very similar film (see also: Dante’s Peak and Volcano, Antz and A Bug’s Life, Armageddon and Deep Impact). And whilst Despicable Me has sold enough DVDs to parents of prepubescent children and lodged itself into the collective consciousness well enough to warrant a sequel, Megamind, its box office rival, seems to have disappeared without a trace.
Which is a shame really, as I thought Megamind was better. Full disclosure; I saw a screening of Megamind at its release in 2010 and only watched Despicable Me last Saturday night, hours before catching the sequel on the Sunday morning, so maybe I just can’t remember Megamind well enough to be properly objective about it, but I do seem to recall being fairly charitable towards it in the review. Despicable Me I thought was, for want of a better sound, just a bit meh.
As such I wasn’t really holding out a lot of hope for Despicable Me 2, which sees Steve Carell’s now ex-super villain Gru teaming up with Kristen Wiig’s Anti-Villain League agent to stop a mysterious antagonist from using a wacky serum that turns things into nasty purple gribblies and taking over the world. To do this, they have to set up a shop in the local mall as a front from which to stake the villain out as intelligence suggests the culprit is another shop proprietor. Gru’s adopted daughters are also along for the journey, as are Gru’s multitude of annoying yellow minions.
The minions are pretty much the focus of the film which seems rather cynical. Not since Jar Jar Binks has a film character been so obviously designed to part children with their pocket money. The easily merchandisable little spods with their irritating babbling are in what feel like every scene. Which is great for the kids I guess, but less so for anyone old enough to choose their own bedtime. It should probably come as no surprise that the little buggers are getting their own spin off film next year, simply titled Minions.
Whilst I could have done with fewer minions, I’d also have liked fewer mall-based antics. Way too much of the film is set in the shopping centre, which proves to be a far less fertile ground for comedy than the writers seemingly anticipated. More super-villainy would have been preferable – the secret HQs, Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions and more instances of the banality of evil that the first film had. As such, it’s all just a little too dull really. And I guess whilst you could make a positive case for the original film making an effort to depict a non-traditional family in a family film, this is undermined by the hugely predictable romantic subplot in the sequel. The broad stereotyping of various characters was also pretty weak.
Still though, the kids liked it and I guess I have to admit to being rather approving of the general design and look of the thing. Pharrell Williams’ music is also pretty good, but as family films go, it’s subpar and not a patch on this month’s other family friendly CGI film, Monsters University. It’s by no means despicable, but it is almost entirely unremarkable.