July 04--In the age of Pixar excellence, there is valid reason to think of the recent past as a new "golden age" of animated movies. "Despicable Me" and its new sequel are major players in that pursuit of quality by making films that buck the Pixar trend.
Its own formula for success was unique: Go anti-hero with Steve Carell giving voice to an oddly European supervillain with a massive ego and a huge budget for gadgets, weapons and cars; have Gru pursue a great heist that requires the help of three street-smart orphans; have his level of sincerity grow along with that of the audience in an off-kilter tale about family and love coming in all shapes and sizes.
These qualities all worked so well, and that's without mentioning the true cultural icon to come out of the first film.
Ask children how they feel about the Minions, and watch their faces light up as their minds visualize Gru's manic army of gibberish-chittering, goggles-wearing, yellow lab assistants that look something like various sizes of Twinkies stuffed into tiny overalls.
In "Despicable Me 2," there are more Minions, because everyone wants more Minions. They are everywhere. They are dressed up in work-appropriate outfits, undercover disguises and leisure attire, and all serve as smart sight gags.
If the film's concluding musical number feels like a device taken from the "Shrek" movies, I didn't care so much because I was too busy chuckling at these little Minions dressed up as the Village People offering their rendition of "Y.M.C.A."
The entire team of creators, from writers to animators, return for this sequel. They give the audience more Minions and make them work in sync with Gru and his adopted daughters in a story that is comedic and cute, if more conventional.
That would be conventional in an unconventional kind of way. As Gru battled his supervillain equal in the first film in a faceoff straight out of "Spy vs. Spy" in Mad magazine, the sequel introduces a romantic interest.
But with Kristin Wiig giving voice to a secret agent who needs Gru's help to track down a new villain, we have the kind of comic talent who can play a perfect foil to Carell's lunacy, and they are both armed with those outlandish James Bond-like gadgets to show off/impress each other with, from freeze rays to lipstick Tasers.
The conventionality of Gru-in-love doesn't match the dark wit of his more evil-minded soul, but the bald baddie still finds foes to battle, including himself: He found tenderness in his heart for little girls, but women remain a mystery.
Then there's the danger presented by teen boys as his oldest daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) discovers the opposite sex and Gru goes into freaked-out-dad spy mode.
The sweetness factor is turned up higher this time as youngest daughter Agnes (Elsie Fisher) has the most screen-time among the trio, voicing her little-girl yearnings for a family that includes a mommy figure.
What makes "Despicable Me 2" another winner is that there are more than enough subversive chuckles to balance out the sugar. It is almost impossible to not smile through the duration of the movie.
The laughs are hearty because the sight gags are fast and furiously funny but grow organically out of the story's events. I think that Pixar may have had "Despicable Me" in mind when it made "Monsters University" as an assembly line of gags, but they felt more tacked-on than those borne of Minion-mania.
"Despicable Me 2" is a marvelous mix of original characters and story with even more Minions. If you want Minions further multiplied, you won't have to wait long: The Minions get their own movie for Christmas of 2014.
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
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