Published Dec 12, 2013The wondrous thing about the original Despicable Me wasn't the animation, the gags, or even the comic timing of the principal voice actors, Steve Carrell and Kirsten Wiig; it was the irresistible audacity of asking children to root for the bad guy as he shrunk and then stole the moon from the sky. Watching your child's nervous, complicated reaction to the realization that it was the villain who was going to be the hero of this movie was worth the price of admission alone. It's a shame, then, that for this mega-grossing sequel, that was the precise aspect of the original film the writers chose to jettison.
When we first meet Carrell's vaguely Slavic Gru he is in retirement from villainy, playing adoptive father to three sweet young girls, and making jam (rather than mischief) in his secret underground lair. When a new super villain hits the scene, Gru is tapped by Lucy Wilde (Wiig), an agent of the Anti-Villain League, to help track down this fresh menace.
Now explicitly working for the good guys — and so robbed of the delicious moral ambiguity that was the engine of the first film — Gru, Lucy and some adorable yellow minions find themselves Get Smarting their way through a pedestrian plot about a mysterious baddie and his nefarious elixir that turns things into mindless purple monsters. Although this set-up does lead to a belly laugh when a couple of minions play out the final scene from the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers late in the film, that's one of the few distinctly memorable moments in a mostly bland bit of kid-friendly time-wastery. The film also features Benjamin Bratt, Steve Coogan, Russell Brand, and an underused Miranda Cosgrove as Gru's eldest daughter.