Movies: "Despicable Me 2" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Despicable Me 2"
Movies: "Despicable Me 2"

You’ve got to love the fact that “Despicable Me 2” unhorsed “The Lone Ranger” at the box office.  Disney -- the godfather of animated movies -- trumped by an animated movie!  (Of course, the mouse house has also had a number of hits this summer, thanks in large part to its Marvel Comics franchise.)

I loved the original “Despicable Me” with its soft-hearted villain Gru (Steve Carell), whose plot to steal the moon is undone by three cute li’l orphan girls.  (I’ve been wondering about his name:  is it short for Gruesome, or perhaps a sly reference to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service?  Certainly, Gru’s odd accent has more than a hint of Russkya in it, along with maybe a little Yiddish.)


So how good is the sequel?  Maybe not quite as brilliant as the original, but still sweet, funny and cleverly inventive.  This is one summer blockbuster I can wholeheartedly recommend for all but the very youngest children.  (It’s rated PG for some momentarily scary moments.)  


Along with its fast-moving James Bond-style plot, what makes this movie so much fun for grownups is its cultural references.  For example, there’s a scene in which Gru’s busy little Minions find themselves at an idyllic tropical resort;  check out the quick shot of the bartender, doing that Isaac Washington double-pistol schtick from “The Love Boat.”  Or the “YMCA” musical finale, again featuring the Minions (whose speeded-up nonsense language is voiced by the movie’s directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, who also made the original).


I’ll spare you a lot of plot details, except to say that the now-reformed Gru is recruited by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent of the Anti-Villain League, to go undercover in a shopping mall to uncover a heinous villain.  Could it be Floyd the hairdresser (Ken Jeong) or the massive owner of a Mexican restaurant (Benjamin Bratt)?  Along the way, Gru has to cope with the sudden love interest of his oldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) as well as the departure of his mad scientist sidekick, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), who has grown bored with Gru’s new venture, making jams and jellies.  And where have all his Minions gone?


Obviously, some great voice talents contributed to the movie, along with a host of mostly French animators.  The screenplay is by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who also scripted the original.  (There are lots of funny lines here, but my favorite has to be, “I really hate that chicken.”)  The music is by Hollywood veteran Heitor Pereira and rapper Pharrell Williams.


I was laughing throughout this movie, and I bet you and your kids will be too.  “Despicable Me 2” gets a B-Plus.