More Minions. More Despicable
I was late to the Despicable Me party but found the original heart-warming and incredibly impressive. The two other original releases knocked out by Illumination Entertainment weren’t great, so a sequel to Despicable Me seemed obvious and while it’s not awful, there was absolutely no need for it.
Set shortly after the events in Despicable Me, Gru [Carrell] is living the life of a reformed villain, attempting to start a business selling jams and jellies. However, proving himself to be a wonderful dad for his three adopted daughters isn’t enough and he starts to wonder if the girls need a maternal figure. Annoyingly, all the candidates he’s set up with are rather hopeless and the idea is immediately shelved. After hosting a birthday party for Agnes (his youngest) Gru is confronted by Lucy Wilde [Wiig], an agent working for the Anti-Villain League. He is then recruited to assist in the exposure and capture of a nefarious new villain that has emerged. The only lead is a genetic signature traced to a large biodome-like mall. Going undercover with Wilde, Gru attempts to identify the culprit – his hottest lead is Eduardo Perez [Bratt], the overweight owner of a Mexican restaurant who bears a striking resemblance to legendary villain, El Macho. In addition to this, Gru is still subconsciously on the search for a suitable mother for the girls, Margo [Cosgrove] has started dating, Dr. Nefario [Russell Brand] has quit and the Minions are disappearing.
Throughout the movie, we are treated to some truly cinematic visuals – for an animated film, this kind of scale is often sought after but so rarely captured. Additionally, the parallel score work by Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams compliments the visuals and sets tones of both severity and levity when called for. Unfortunately, pushing the technical elements to one side, the story isn’t as inspired and happily sinks into atypical sequel territory. Furthermore, the laughs are still good but not nearly as constant or sustained as the first film. No doubt, younger audience members will enjoy the pratfall silliness but more adult audiences will bemoan the absence (or gross subsidence, at least) of the villain inspired humour and wit. But that’s what the studios want; get the audiences in young, people! Gotta sell those Minion toys to someone! If anything, the whole thing seems inspired by the results of a focus group. If you don’t know this already, I bloody hate focus groups. Damn you, focus groups. Damn you all! Taking a small group of 10 or 50 people and changing the nature of something creative based on what they liked or related to is not only moronic and detrimental but it’s fundamentally ruining the cinematic industry… but of course, we all knew that already.
At least the characters feel true to themselves. There are few things worse than sequels that betray the very core nature of their characters. With the introduction of new faces, less time is spent with the girls (save Agnes for her cute factor – see focus group comments above) but at least they still feel exactly the same, rather than some revisionist nonsense. But the story and setups are largely carried by the performances of Carrell, Wiig and Bratt, all three of whom are exceptional and it’s evident that their personalities have really been worked into both the dialogue and the animation – less so for Bratt but I’ll mention that later, in my Highlighted Character segment. Then there are the Minions. I’ll openly admit it, I like the Minions. For kids, they represent slapstick hilarity and they remind parents of their children. When they were on form, the Minions were flat-out hilarious, when they weren’t, they were quite tedious. I can remember no less than three attempts to get me laughing with singing Minions. Minions! Singing Boys2Men! AND THE VILLAGE PEOPLE! SMACK A DUCK! That’s bloomin’ marvellous! Oh, I’m positively rolling on the floor in sheer joy and exquisite amusement. On the contrary, it was drawn out filler that was never funny. Not once! Singing should be forbidden in most films, especially family films, wherein it is a simplistic cheap gimmick that even Disney knows to hold back on now. I know there’s a Minion film being released next year but with the plot focusing so heavily on them, I feel like I’ve already watched it; which is annoying as the premise for the spin-off/prequel sounds intriguing. Much like the first film, they should be used sparingly and only when necessary, so as not to suffer the same fate as those penguins from Madagascar.
Still, Despicable Me 2 is better than most of its competitors but it would have been nice to leave the Despicable Me universe alone and work on something new, rather than diving into franchise territory (something Pixar are quite guilty of, of late). Just because the visuals are good and the jokes are amusing, doesn’t mean you can just wheel out a simple, disposable story and shoehorn in a handful of new characters. I mean, they’re going to but they shouldn’t. If we’re lucky the Minions film will be a rather impressive surprise and the whole thing will be left alone to age with dignity. Chances of that actually happening? Slim.
5th July 2013
The Scene To Look Out For:
My favourite scene was largely ruined by the endless trailers aired in the run up to the cinematic release. Gru is building up the courage to ask Lucy out on a date and has been practicing with a phone and one of his minions. After a disastrous attempt, he decides to make the call. As he reaches for the phone, terror sets in and the back-and-forth cuts between a terrified Gru and the looming phone is genuinely funny. All of which reaches a crescendo when Gru finally snaps, whips out a flamethrower and melts the phone. Naturally this triggers a fire alarm and three Minions enter the room, adding to the destruction and mayhem. Everything working in harmony to produce a very amusing scene. More of those would have been appreciated.
Benjamin Bratt was amazing. His role as Eduardo Perez was really entertaining and added so much to an already decently stacked cast of characters. But then I learned that Bratt was brought in weeks before the film was complete, to rerecord the audio that had already been put in place by Al Pacino, who left the project citing creative differences. To come in at the last minute, lip-synch and already animated character while ignoring what Pacino did and inventing your own thing AND being one of the movie’s highlights is astounding. Effectively he out Pacino’d Pacino? Flabbergasting.
“My house is made out of candy and sometimes I eat instead of facing my problems”
In A Few Words:
“Not a terrible movie but lacks the depth, charm and personality of the original”