The latest installment in Universal’s Despicable Me franchise is more proof of the old adage that the sequel is never as good as the original. Despicable Me 2 is an enjoyable story. But ultimately, it is just as forgettable as so many other unnecessary sequels, prequels, and remakes that Hollywood has churned out in recent history. That’s not to say that it is terrible. It just was unnecessary. Though to the script’s benefit, it can be noted that the pop culture references peppered throughout the story make up for the relatively lackluster story. While the story itself was largely unnecessary, it can be noted of this movie that lead actor Steve Carell is just as entertaining this time out as he was in Despicable Me. That talent, along with the pop culture references thrown in for good measure, makes this movie one that is good for a lazy day at home, but sadly little else.
The story at the heart of Despicable Me 2 is a continuation of the bad guy-gone-good story established in the franchise’s first flick. The story of a bad guy-gone good is nothing new to the movie industry. So the question left to Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul was how to make this story stand out from the others of its ilk. The end result is a story that is unbalanced and predictable. Daurio and Paul have crafted a story that becomes more rom-com than its family friendly predecessor. The story starts well enough with Gru being recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help stop an evil mastermind. In the process, Gru is teamed up with agent Lucy (KristenWiig). The rom-com storyline that ensues ends up taking a front seat, while the real story ends up being sadly little more than a distraction. As if that wasn’t bad enough, at least one of the jokes inserted into the script is one that was completely unnecessary. The joke in question saw Gru looking for a syrum via a high-tech belt buckle of sorts. As he searched a store for signs of said serum, it looked like he was dry humping pictures and even a statue. Despicable Me 2 is supposed to be a family friendly movie. So the gag in particular will leave some older viewers scratching their heads, wondering why Daurio and Paul thought they had to go blue. Thankfully, it’s the only joke of its kind through the course of the movie’s near two-hour run-time. Of course, the script would have been well-served to have not even had the gag in question included in the first place. Luckily for Daurio and Paul, there are more than enough hilarious pop culture references mixed into the story to make up for that one unnecessary tasteless gag.
Despicable Me 2 suffers from its share of problems as should be evident by now. But it isn’t without its merits. One of those merits is the number of pop culture references thrown into the storyline, not the least of which being a handful of James Bond references. Older audiences will appreciate the references to Dr. No as well as other classic Bond flicks. At one point, there is also a tribute to the classic sci-fi/horror hybrid Alien. One wouldn’t think that such a reference would work in this story. But it does indeed work. And again, audiences familiar with that movie will also find themselves laughing at the reference. Daurio and Cinco pay homage to other classics throughout this story. And audiences that watch the movie for themselves will take joy in each one.
The classic film references added to Despicable Me 2 go a long way toward saving the movie from itself. The acting on the part of Steve Carell also helps salvage the story. Carell expertly interprets Gru’s attempts to balance his newfound life on the other side of super villain status with being dad. Audiences will laugh uproariously at Gru’s reaction by a certain woman to set him up with her friends. So many older audiences will admit that they can relate to Gru’s relationship plight. And even as the voice of a computer generated figure, Carell can make audiences laugh in the moments of physical comedy, too. He makes a scene such as when Gru is attacked by a “watch chicken” feel as funny as any live action physical comedy bit. It’s one more testament to Carell’s ability as an actor. This is just one more of so many examples of Carell’s talents. As with the jokes and gags peppered throughout the story, Carell’s acting is the only other saving grace to what is an otherwise forgettable film. It is available now in stores and online. Despite being largely forgettable, it is still a movie worth renting once in a while.
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