With his vaguely Eastern European accent and penguin-shaped body, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) made a terrific supervillain. The problem was he really had a heart of gold or at least gold-plated which proved apparent when he took in three young orphan girls.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
Now in Despicable Me 2, a livelier and more satisfying movie than its 2010 predecessor, the reformed Gru embarks on a new profession. The Anti-Villain League (AVL) recruits him to expose a mystery supervillain who has stolen a volatile chemical. Theyve traced the scoundrel to a suburban shopping mall, where he has blended in with the other businesses.
Could he be the Eagle Hair Club proprietor (Ken Jeong) or perhaps the Salsa & Salsa owner (Benjamin Bratt), whose Mexican restaurant also features Latin dancing. Gru opens a cupcake store Bake My Day as a front to find out.
Parts James Bond flick, Get Smart episode and Pixar-esque family adventure, Despicable Me 2 introduces fresh challenges for its crusty hero. Along with his transformation to legitimate businessman, he also pines for some romance. After a date-gone-wrong with a gum-smacking bimbo (Nasim Pedrad of SNL), Gru begins to wonder if the leggy AVL agent (the hilarious Kristen Wiig) hes partnered with will find him appealing.
Oh yeah, there are also plenty of minions along for the escapade. Whereas Grus underlings yellow, goggle-wearing, gibberish-spouting creatures were more of a cutesy distraction in the original, here they occasionally drive the plot.
Despicable Me 2 moves away from the core dynamic of the first film: Gru warming to adorable little Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher). Ordinarily, thats a formula for disaster, but here it helps the project feel less like a retread and more like a logical progression.
Filmmakers Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud unleash all manner of cinematic tricks to keep their follow-up entertaining. Theres the POV attack of a feral minion as he storms Grus front yard. Then theres a sequence where Gru is conflicted about whether to call a girl for a date, and his view of a phone is presented like Hitchcock adapting The Tell-Tale Heart.
The films only real fault is its constant reliance on the quirky minions. Its easy to visualize the two-word producers note when the sequel was greenlit: More minions! (Universal is planning a Minions spinoff next year.) There probably isnt a three-minute stretch without one popping up to do something lovable or zany. The movie is plenty clever without these pandering, toy-selling tools.
When describing his first revolting batch of sweets, Gru says, Just because everyone hates it doesnt mean its not good.
The reverse sentiment can also apply to the minions. Just because everyone loves them doesnt mean theyre not bad.