As predicted last week, Despicable Me held on in the Hidden City fleapit, so I halfheartedly sloped along this evening on the "catch it now or never catch up with it til video" principle which drives a lot of my movie-going decisions. I didn't expect the original to be up to much, and it surprised me; I expected the sequel to be kind of flat, and this time I called it.
Despicable Me 2 is better than a film with a "2" in the title usually is, and it doesn't actually ruin the original, but there's not enough of the kids this time. In the first movie, the three kids were sneakily undermining Gru's will to evil, all while he plotted to steal the moon and one up his upstart rival. In the second movie, Gru finds romance instead of fatherhood, and I have to say I was right there with Edith and the disgusted expression on her face every time the love theme bobbed around. Kristen Wiig's Lucy is good fun (it's almost criminal how funny she can make the phrase "lipstick taser" sound), but the fun of Gru is his misanthropy, and he was softened quite enough in the first movie, thank you very much.
Still there's always the minions. Having said three years ago that I'd pay good money to see a movie with nothing but the minions, I had second thoughts when I saw that's the next stage in the despicabilification of the world. The minions are great as comic relief, but since they have the attention span of greenfly, I'm struggling to think of how you could hold a movie together around their antics. Despicable Me 2 was visibly struggling at times. Still, that's 2014's problem, by which stage I shall have fled the Hidden City, and who knows what that might do to my perspectives.
Not enough kids, I'm having mild misgivings about the minions, and the love story struck me as a bad idea. How are things on the overall villainy front? Well, Lucy's an agent with the Anti-Villain League who, like most representatives of Lawful Good in the movies, come across as very nearly as dangerous as the evil they're after and considerably less likeable. The villain; well, I liked the villain in the first movie because he was a stereotype of a particular kind of annoying person; I'm always that little bit less forgiving when the villain is a stereotype of a whole country (exception; any time Jean Reno plays a frog hitman is quite OK with me). But mostly my issue with the villainy is that there just isn't enough of it, and it's not on wonderfully preposterous scale that Gru used to deliver. In the first movie, the gadgets had a chromed grandiosity to them which pleased the eye; there's not enough of it this time round, unfortunately. What there is, is a villainous plot which effectively turns the minions into zombies, which is a nice idea until the writers realised that they were making a kids' movie and the tiny tykes would run screaming into the waiting arms of a million lawyers if the zombies did what you zombies, you know, do. So there's a miracle cure, and it's 100% more credible - and more effectively foreshadowed and written - than the miracle cure in World War Z, which I did not see coming, other than in the general way that I don't expect to see anything less credible this year than Brad Pitt saving the world.
All that grumbling done, I watched pretty much the whole thing with a grin on my face. Maybe the minions can't carry a movie on their own, maybe they can, but when they trooped out into a fairy princess birthday party in a mismatched assortment of armour and started beating the tar out of each other, I wanted a full set of them in 28mm. And while Gru isn't at his sparkling best, there's a wonderful bookend half way through the movie where he starts the day full of the joys of love, and joins in cheerily with everything going on around him, only to end the day dumped and reversing every single feel good gesture we saw earlier.
What Gru needs is whatever colour of kryptonite it used to be that made Superman into evil superman. There's your third movie.