Antics, daddy woes in 'Despicable Me 2'
MANILA, Philippines - We’ve been watching the teasers and trailers for this flick for something like two years now, and it’s finally upon us.
And what fun "Despicable Me 2" is.
It’s easy to see what it’s got going for it, because the creators are very clear and very smart in utilizing the Minions. From the teasers with them singing “Barbara Anne” to their now ubiquitous presence in the form of merchandising, the irresistible cuteness of the Minions is a draw. Not only that, but it felt like half of the film’s running time was devoted to the Minions’ gags. That is by no means a complaint.
The Minions’ gags run the gamut of comedy, from classic film referencing sight gags, and the most basic slapstick. They’ve got the comedic timing of the Three Stooges coupled with a cute character design that makes them perfect for all kinds of merchandise.
Watch the Minions sing (and fight):
Just on the strength of these funny moments, you could string together a passable flick. The gags are sometimes so inspired (an early gag that has two minions trying to chase and then stick with a car, shown in the trailer, shows the kind of playfulness on display) that I’m surprised they haven’t gotten a spin-off TV series yet.
And the primary audience, kids, will love them. This I can attest to as I listened to a bunch of kids imitating the minions right behind me as we left the theater. I also have physical evidence, because as they were doing their imitations they were launching spittle all over and a fair amount of it wound up on my backpack.
While it’s the Minions that the franchise is now best known for, it still sticks to the heart of the matter, which are Gru and his 3 wards. We watched Gru go from bad guy to nice dad, and here in the first few minutes we re-establish the family dynamic. Just as cute as the minions are the kids he takes care of, especially the youngest, Agnes. She gets a lot of moments here, as she did in the first one, which are heartwarming and help give the film an emotional center.
Now Gru, who has turned his back on super-villainy, is recruited by the Anti-Villains League to help retrieve some kind of stolen formula or other. The quest partners him with new character Lucy, who serves not only as sidekick but also romantic interest. They work together to uncover the plot.
Watch a trailer here:
The thing is, all of the forward narrative movement feels largely inconsequential. In terms of tension and stakes with this larger narrative, it’s pretty loose and laid back about moving from one thing to the next. Yet it seems that the film benefits from it. Rather than the quest being the point of the film, it is merely an occasion to explore character and pull of funny gags.
We spend a lot of time dealing with Gru and his issues with dating. He goes on a hilarious date, and while this has nothing to do with the larger events of the film, it is very entertaining. His own issues and anxieties regarding dating and women are coupled with eldest Margo’s newfound interest in boys. We watch super-villain Gru confronted with an enemy that no father is ever prepared for: the prospect of his little girl falling in love. Again, hilarity ensues, not necessarily part of the movie’s forward movement, but fitting in well and adding to the general spirit that the film is developing.
A highlight for me was the introduction of the super-villain El Macho, who does everything in the most macho way possible. A fun montage sequence has him dying in the most macho way possible, riding a shark with sticks of dynamite strapped to him while he dives into an erupting volcano. Again, it’s fun and it’s funny and it’s memorable.
I think where "Despicable Me 2" gets things most right is in its commitment to having fun. It doesn’t follow any of the standard Hollywood formulae for kiddie flicks. It sets up a very simple, very typical story, and uses that simplicity so that it can focus on character interaction and development.
Here are interviews with Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Benjamin Bratt:
"Despicable Me 2" drops in fun gags, hits sweet spots and might even bring about a tear every once in a while. The film has a great sense of humor, a wonderful sense of fun and great feel for its characters. - Rappler.com
'Despicable Me 2' opens in cinemas on July 3.
Carljoe Javier is at the faculty of English and Comparative Literature at UP. He is also an author, and among his books are The Kobayashi Maru of Love, the new edition of which is available from Visprint Inc. His upcoming Writing 30 will be available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n andflipreads.com