I’m not sure what was going on in the personal lives of the people behind Despicable Me 2, but their movie seems awfully obsessed with the arranging of romantic dates. A bad run on OKCupid, perhaps?
This sequel to 2010’s Despicable Me, about a super villain named Gru (Steve Carell) who turns from his evil ways after encountering three orphan girls, is partly another adventure, but its main concern is matchmaking. Gru, who is now the girls’ adoptive father, has a flashback to a wooing mishap from his childhood, is constantly being set up on dates by his nosy neighbor and gets a business partner (Kristen Wiig) who mainly serves as a romantic interest. On top of this are subplots in which the youngest daughter (Elsie Kate Fisher) pines for a mother and the oldest daughter (Miranda Cosgrove) becomes infatuated with a boy at the mall.
I don’t know that this is inappropriate for the movie’s target audience – I’ll let parents themselves be the judge – but it certainly seemed out of sync for the Despicable Me franchise. The previous movie was nothing special – save for some nifty production and vehicle design, both of which are carried over here – but it at least functioned as a recognizable spy spoof. Despicable Me 2 reminded me of the fifth-grade field trip I recently chaperoned for one of my kids, when the bus ride devolved into 45 minutes of, “Who do you like?” “No, who do you like?”
I guess that means some young viewers in the Despicable Me audience might be interested in all the lovey-dovey stuff going on, yet I’d also question how the movie handles that material. Gru takes the decidedly unhealthy, patriarchal opinion that his daughter should not have any contact at all with the boy from the mall (and his paranoia is vindicated). A spectacularly unfunny sequence in which he agrees to one of those blind dates ends with his date being subjected to all sorts of accidental violence. Add some questionable cultural characterizations – a new villain, El Macho, has the Mexican flag tattooed on his chest and uses the tune to “La Cucaracha” as a password to his secret lair – and Despicable Me 2 is a primer on all sorts of insensitivity.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive, you say? Perhaps. If the above sounds amusing to you, so be it. But there’s no defending the picture’s crass and assaultive use of 3-D (it’s like 1953’s House of Wax without the sense of humor). And then, of course, there are the Minions, those babbling, bumbling, yellow assistants who follow Gru around bickering and punching each other. They’re comic heirs of the Three Stooges and there are hundreds of them. Not encouraging if, like me, you always thought three stooges were two too many.