Despicable Me 2 review: An above average animated comedy

“Despicable Me” is a tough movie to make a sequel to. It’s a pretty insular storyline about a bad guy turning good, ending with the fundamental concept of the movie having shifted. The storyline of “Despicable Me 2” must have been tough for screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul to crack, but they wind up with what’s probably the best follow up to that film possible. If the original movie asks the question, “how does a bad guy turn good,” “Despicable Me 2” asks, “what happens after that?”

Well, ex-villainous mastermind Gru (Steve Carell) still resides in his comically evil looking home, but now he spends his days learning to be a father, taking care of his three daughters adopted in the first film. Previously, he used his giant laboratory under the house to hatch villainous schemes. Now, it’s used as a manufacturing plant for a line of jams and jellies. The life of a reformed bad guy, as it turns out, is pretty boring.

That is until Lucy (Kristen Wiig) emerges into Gru’s life, recruiting him to assist the Anti Villain League in taking down a mysterious new criminal who, in the opening scenes, steals a powerful mutagen from a secret laboratory in the Arctic Circle. This crazy adventure would instantly thrill the Gru from the original film, but now, he sees it as an annoying distraction from his youngest daughter’s birthday party.

The first “Despicable Me” was a huge hit with kids, especially because of the loud mouthed, yellow sidekicks, the minions. Naturally, the sequel moves them into the forefront. There’s a much greater focus on the minions this time around, making them an integral part of the villain’s scheme, where as in the original, they were mostly just there for background gags and comic relief. This had potential to be a really bad idea. Often times in comedy, when a side character is given more screen time, the humor is completely lost.

Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here. The minions are consistently hilarious, and easily the standout of the whole movie. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud find the perfect balance, giving us just enough minions to keep the movie moving along at a brisk pace, but not enough that we get tired of them. In fact, I probably wouldn’t mind even more of them, which makes me cautiously optimistic for the upcoming minions spinoff film.

In fact, “Despicable Me 2” is far funnier than the first in general. It’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year so far, with a good mix of Looney Toons style comic insanity, and genuinely well written comedic dialogue. In the story department, though, the film doesn’t have quite as much going for it as the original.

The majority of what happens throughout is extremely predictable, with all the plot turns practically choreographed from the opening 10 minutes. I’d be surprised if even kids didn’t accurately predict most of where this movie was going. I also didn’t find the character of Lucy to be as good of an addition to the series as was probably intended. Kristen Wiig does a fine job, but the character is rather bland, especially in comparison to Gru and the minions, and some of the decisions she makes near the end just aren’t justified at all.

For these reasons, I’d put “Monsters University” above “Despicable Me 2” as the best animated film of the summer. That movie had a warm-hearted tone typical of Pixar, with some plot turns towards the end I honestly didn’t see coming. But “Despicable Me 2,” though lacking in the story department, is far funnier, so really, I’m happy with both.

“Despicable Me 2” is a brisk, hilarious animated feature which in a lot of ways surpasses the original. The story is weak at times, but only rarely do we really feel that. We never complain about the storyline of a Looney Toons cartoon, after all. The movie is far too fun, lighthearted and fast paced for it to really matter.

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