|Image courtesy of Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment|
Sugar and spice and everything nice - that's what Despicable Me 2 is made of.
There were moments where the film became SO sweet I was tempted to dart into the bathroom to check for cavities. Which isn't to say it wasn't entertaining, but much of the gothic charm from DM1 got sacrificed for lighter fare - and I blame Lucy Wilde.
In this roundup, we see a much mellower and significantly less grumpy Gru (voiced by the ever-versatile Steve Carell) as the doting father of his three adopted girls, Margo, Edith, and the ever-quirky Agnes. The movie is successful in the gentle way it addresses the importance of mothers (for both the child and the father) without dimming the impact of Gru's role in his little girls' lives, but it fails in the introduction of the paramour herself, the aforementioned Ms. Wilde (voiced by an overly-enthusiastic Kristen Wiig).
At first, she severely grated on my nerves. But similar to how the semi-acidic taste of a Sour Patch Kids gummy segues into a more pleasant mild flavor, she does mellow out into something semi-palatable towards the end - but it's still not your theatre candy of choice (at least for my particular Gru-ish soul, sorry for any Sour Patch fans out there).
The writers try hard to make her quirky in the slightly sinister way that Gru is, but while he succeeds at continuing to be downright nasty at times - although a lot less than in the first film, to my disappointment - Lucy's bubbly, bright-eyed personality clashes mightily with Gru's purposeful Addams Family vibe.
Bottom line - its hard to buy the romance. It's easy to see why the girls adore Ms. Wilde, with her bright fashion sense and James Bondish gadgets, but it was hard for me to see what Gru finds so appealing about her (beyond her shapely physique, and the fact that Gru apparently hasn't had a date since The Mary Tyler Moore show was premiering). And well, maybe the reasons I mentioned are enough, but I would've preferred something more for dear Gru.
Ms. Wilde is not the only romance floating in the air, however. Margo, on the cusp of adolescence, falls for the cute guy at the mall that has a definite swagger akin to a young Johnny Depp. Gru, of course, has fits, considers buying a shotgun, and basically has every loving parents' personal nightmare of coming to terms with their sweet, adorable little child awakening to sexual desires and attraction. Even worse when that particular parent hasn't had much action lately in his fabulous G-monogrammed silk pjs. (Who wouldn't love a guy with some of those?) We even get a small glimpse into what a Minion may find attractive - yes, it's true, those adorable goggle-donning penicillin tablets, for all their silliness, long for romance to call their own as well.
All of these more profound themes are wrapped up in a crazy plot involving lots of gadgets, a poorly organized and executed Anti-Villain League, Minions bouncing around doing what they do best - causing mayhem, a villain who is more than he appears to be, and one very pissed off chicken. While the first movie had an elegant compactness in plot and execution, the thematic elements of DM2 seem jumbled. It all adds up to a lot of fun, but it is something akin to an under-baked cake - lots of good ingredients, but not quite able to hold its own in the same way as predecessor.
Still, it has something for everyone. The film boasts the best 3D effects of any feature I've seen so far this year, and the textures, from clothes to metal to food, are eye-poppingly realistic. And the deeper themes of the challenges of single parenthood, dating after a certain age in an incredibly judgmental society, and a parent coming to terms that he will someday have to share his child's affections with someone else make for a film that is just as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.