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'Despicable Me 2' fails to live up to its predecessor

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UNIVERSAL PICTURES | COURTESY

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JULY 10, 2013

There are so many characteristics of “Despicable Me 2” that parallel its prequel that one almost expects the movie to be good at least for its familiarity. Once again, Gru must decide between good and evil when new characters arrive on the scene to steal his heart. This time, instead of the girls, we meet Lucy Wilde, the love interest. And, of course, insert a looming antagonist that threatens the animated world as we know it. But despite the common premises of the movies, “Despicable Me 2” doesn’t captivate audiences the way its prequel did, mostly because the filmmakers focused on bringing back elements that didn’t define the original for its success.

Ironically, the most highly anticipated aspect of the film might have been its downfall: the minions. Just as the movie posters mainly depict them in funny costumes, the film is packed with these chattering yellow creatures for the purpose of slapstick humor and warm, fuzzy feelings. And their presence would normally be a great addition — if they didn’t overshadow the plotline. In their first few scenes, whether sword-fighting in makeshift armor or vacuuming in maid outfits, the minions evoke the same laughter as ever. But as the movie progresses, their cuteness isn’t enough to keep the audience entertained — at least not those over the age of 7. Instead, overexposure makes the minions a kind of tired feature by the end, and the laughter feels somewhat forced: “Oh, right. He just got squished. Haha. Ha.”

Unfortunately, not only do the minions’ appearances slow down the plot, but the plot seems to focus on accommodating as much minion screen time as possible as opposed to telling a good story. For example, “Despicable Me 2” involves the mysterious kidnapping of minions throughout the film, but the kidnappings themselves are overshadowed by extended footage of them fighting over bananas or playing golf and so forth. As a result, the aforementioned similarities between this film and the original “Despicable Me” seem more like lazy screenwriting than adherence to a tried and true plot format for animated films. The sequel opens with a scene of grand villainy; so did the original. The sequel features a kidnapping as its final showdown; so did the original. Said showdowns were also both resolved by near-identical uses of deus ex machina. All the similarities make for an overall predictable movie; by the end, it’s all too obvious not only what’s going to happen but even how it’s going to happen.

Still, some elements of the movie remind us why we loved “Despicable Me” in the first place. Margo, Edith and Agnes charm just as much as daughters as they did as orphans. And it’s endearing to see a glimpse of the family life Gru has built with them, dressing as a fairy princess for Agnes’ birthday party or counseling Margo in boy troubles. These displays of the characters’ heart are what make the “Despicable Me” movies lovable. If we could see more of this genuine, simple emotion in scenes with Gru’s love interest and in the movie in general, perhaps we would be more invested in the characters. As it is, all the minion antics and caricature-like supporting characters distract from what we really want to see.

In the end, “Despicable Me 2” is another movie that, like so many other sequels, fails to live up to its legacy. The film contains vestiges of the original that people fell in love with, but the script is a little more generic, the jokes a little less funny. It is a disappointment for a film to be advertised so aggressively but to itself seem so halfheartedly made. Perhaps next time, Universal Pictures would do well to remember that at the heart of a film, there has to be heart.

Contact Josephine Yang at 

LAST UPDATED

JULY 10, 2013


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