Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 86th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Original Song(“Happy”)at the 86th Annual Academy Awards
Apparently, familiarity does not breed contempt. Full disclosure: in preparation for my recent watch of the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Despicable Me 2”, I also made certain to “prep” with my first ever look at “Despicable Me”. My initial reaction after viewing the 2010 original was, “are they kidding?”. This film was a smash hit that made well over 500 million dollars at the worldwide box office? Do the filmmakers even know what the word despicable means? I guess not, because just about all of the movie’s characters are pretty darn nice. Including leading baddie Gru(voiced by Steve Carell)—who really isn’t all that despicable. Oh, the 2010 offering opens with Gru enacting a few semi-nasty things, and culminates with Gru actually shrinking and stealing the moon. But, it seemed that before you could even exclaim “3 cute little orphan girls”, Gru was shown to simply be an overstuffed, misunderstood softie with a good heart. “Sentimental Me” would be much more accurate.
So, how in the world does an animated mediocrity, like 2010’s “Despicable Me”, spawn a 2013 sequel that almost doubles it worldwide gross? Do you really desire another lecture from me on the decline of artistic taste throughout the world…with America at the forefront? I didn’t think so. But, the fact remains that, “Despicable Me 2” has officially raked in nearly one billion dollars at theaters, since opening in early July of 2013. And as of this writing, that box office tally is good enough to place it 2nd amongst 2013’s global gross leaders…only flagging behind the mega-blockbuster “Iron Man 3”. That’s some serious cash. One other thing occurred—and I’m a bit reticent to admit it. In watching the 2013 sequel, I found that I had grown a little attached to the characters from the 2010 offering. Yeah, I was pleased to see them once more. It’s not a love by any means, but it’s certainly some sort of comfort with routine. Is that the allure? As strong as any other theory, I guess.
No great shakes here as far as plot or character development goes. Now a retired “ex-villain”, the despicable Gru(Mr. Carell)bides his time raising his adopted trio of moppets, Margo, Edith and Agnes(voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher, respectively). Of course, we quickly learn that Gru has become restless and bored with his new-found domesticity, and is chomping at the bit for some action. So, when Gru is asked by the appropriately monikered AVL(or, Anti-Villain League), to train them Hannibal Lecter-style, in understanding the workings of a criminal mind, Gru is initially reluctant—but eventually on board. Furthermore, Gru reveals he would like nothing more than a mate to help complete his family unit, but his methods of persuasion prove lacking. Then the playing field is altered upon the arrival of an undercover AVL agent named Lucy(the super Kristen Wiig, who also voiced the character of Miss Hattie in the first film). And when a powerful mutation drug known as PX-41 threatens not only the world’s population, but Gru’s beloved “minions”(little benevolent Pac-Man like creatures)—the game is on.
Co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, along with co-screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, have now twice delivered an animated smash that doesn’t reach for the stars, doesn’t attempt anything too outrageous and steers clear of that cursed originality. But it’s sweet and sentimental, is populated with talented voice actors and is overrun by adorable yellow creatures with funny voices. That’s apparently all it takes, and, as confessed, even yours truly found it impossible to be immune to its charms. I’m not proud of it, by the way. But a billion dollars! Wow…I just can’t understand it. Want more? July 2015 is reportedly the debut date for the spin-off/prequel of the “Despicable Me” franchise, entitled—wait for it…”Minions”. Oh boy. And director Pierre Coffin is once again at the helm. Plus, Sandra Bullock is part of its vocal cast! Can you stand it? Will “Despicable Me 2” win an Oscar next week? I doubt it. Both of its nominated categories are likely to be swept by “Frozen”, but I imagine that Best Original Song could still be considered a wild card. “Despicable Me 2” is the weakest of the 3 animated feature nominees I’ve seen so far(I’m afraid that the very limited releases of both the Japanese “The Wind Rises” and the French-Belgian “Ernest & Celestine” will necessitate a post-Oscar review), but I didn’t hate it. And I guess that’s a small victory, in itself. Grade: C+
next review up: “War Witch(“Rebelle”)”