Reformed villain Gru and his adopted children live a quiet life, until he’s enlisted by a lovely representative of the Anti-Villain League to help save the world.
Why we went
We wanted to sneak in a pre-Vineyard movie. And since AJ’s afraid of giant robots, we opted to save Pacific Rim for another day.
Why it worked (but not really)
Marketing matters. A lot. It takes considerable thought and effort to really come up with a thing that sticks. Having a strong sense of craft alone won’t do it, you need pull. And what better pull than some weird chattering pill-shaped oompa/chipmunk hybrids with mischievous dispositons?
The creative team of the Despicable Me franchise really hit the jackpot. Who’s asking how and why Kevin became the little monster he is today? Our love for him and his brethren is not measured by anything they’ve done, but by how friggin’ silly they look and sound (like barking puppies in people clothes – for people!). Their image just begs for posters and tv spots and youtube banners.
This being the case, its no wonder that Gru (Steve Carell) is absent from much of the second film’s promotional material. Seriously though, why even bother with him? Despicable Me already gave that character a tidy, well-earned ending. He grew in the ways he needed to and so did his orphan littles. Which is why one could justifiably say, from a storyteller’s perspective, that the sequel didn’t need to happen. Then again, ka-ching.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie did a few things right. For starters, it progressed logically from the first, presenting Gru’s struggles as an eligible bachelor and single parent. It parodied adulthood in an occasionally fun way (see: the over-eager next door neighbor and the blind date she schedules for Gru). It had some great sight gags. And yes, the minions – mindless as they are – still add a lot of gleeful relief to a plot that mostly wanders.
But that’s just it. There’s a clear crutch here, and it wasn’t just in the marketing campaign. Early promos for this summer’s The Heat may have emphasized the whole one dimensional “female take on the buddy cop comedy” thing, but we got much more than that. That movie had heart. It had people working together that you could tell work well together. And the story’s outcome may have been predictable, but audiences laughed every step of the way. Monsters University – a huge summer competitor – also wanted to bank on the success of its predecessor, but found a rich, deeply focused story to assure that the asses in theater seats were happy.
The same cannot be said of Despicable Me 2, but its makers were less interested in that raw element anyway. Universal did their research, figured out what people liked from the first and gave them more of it. No risk involved. In case there was any question, it won’t end here either. The announcement that 2014 will bring a spinoff entitled Minions to the big screen pretty much solidifies this movie’s place as an elaborate commercial.
The Bottom Line
In trying so hard to please everybody, it loses the elements that made the original so special.