I loved Despicable Me when it came out in 2010. It had great characters, great inventions, and most of all a great theme. The story of Gru having to choose between his career and his responsibilities as a father had genuine depth. Also, the minions!
So when I heard there was a sequel so soon after the original, I was a little perturbed. Could it live up to the highs of the first film, or would it merely be a cash-in to help sell more minion toys?
Despicable Me 2 sees Gru (Steve Carell) now fully committed to his role as a father. When we first meet him again he is doing his best to through an awesome party for his youngest daughter, Agnes, despite the fact the Fairy Princess has cancelled at the last minute.
However, it’s not long before he’s dragged back into the world of villainy. Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent for AVL (Anti-Villain League) wants Gru to use his experience as a villain to identify who could be behind a recent attack on an Arctic Base. So the two become a team. However it’s not long before Gru, having only just come to terms with feelings of parental love, must deal with love of the romantic kind as he starts to fall for Lucy.
As a film Despicable Me 2 is never terrible and is enjoyable for the most part. However, the story felt like a series of missed opportunities, and lacked any sort of theme to bring it all together.
From a positive point of view, the character of Lucy, like most of the characters in the series, is very well conceived and written. She feels like her own person, rather than merely a love interest for Gru. She bursts into Gru’s life with an energy and agenda all of her own, and feels very much in keeping with the “Despicable Me” universe.
As mentioned, the problem then lies with the plot which is a series of events rather than a new journey for Gru (and his new family) to go on. There is no real dilemma for him at any point in the film, his allegiances are not tested, he is not forced to choose between his three children, his new job, and his new love. Instead, stuff happens. Minions do funny stuff. There’s a bad guy to be defeated. The end.
The only thoughtful parts of the story for me were seeing the lengths Gru would go to for a good birthday party, as well as his suspicion of a young boy who starts taking an interest in his eldest daughter, Margo. Both of which relate back to the theme of the original film, without adding anything especially new to the mix.
Despicable Me 2 then was something of a let down for me. No doubt the series will continue to entertain families far and wide. However it is unfortunate that I can now see the franchise going the same way as Shrek, with a series of sequels and spin-offs, each more devoid of ideas than the last.