Steve Carell, Al Pacino, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan
Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Christopher Meledandri, Janet Healy
In its frantic, Looney Tunes-style madness, â€œDespicable Me 2â€ brings to mind a cautionary childrenâ€™s story about an aspiring baker who learns the hard way that doubling the recipe for bread doesnâ€™t mean doubling the baking time. It tries so hard to double your pleasure that it emerges from the test kitchen slightly burned. Like the jams and jellies that its reformed main character, Gru, makes in his new line of work, the film combines too many flavors, along with extra sugar. Once again, the lesson that more is not necessarily better, something rarely learned by blockbuster sequels, is forgotten.
That said, the new movie â€" concocted by the same hands (the directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and the screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) who were behind the first â€œDespicable Meâ€ â€" is consistently diverting and so cute youâ€™ll want to pet it. Yet it is also weightless and lacks a center. Which isnâ€™t to deny its inventiveness in imagining zany, whiz-bang gadgetry and its considerable achievement in the creation of a puffed-up Latin American villain who steals the spotlight from Gru (the voice of Steve Carell), the first filmâ€™s beaky, Shrek-like central character.
Gru has come a long way since he aspired to be the worldâ€™s worst bad guy in the original movie. His cold heart has thawed since his adoption of three little girls. Despite his funny multinational accent, the reformed Gru is something of a bore.
The domestication of this once-fearsome grouch continues in â€œDespicable Me 2.â€ Gru, with his hearing-impaired mad scientist partner, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), has started a jam-and-jelly business whose tasteless products nobody wants. Just as his operation is about to fail, Gru is hired by the Anti-Villain League to locate a world-class baddie who uses a flying magnet to steal a secret research lab in the Arctic Circle. The lab has perfected a serum that causes grotesque mutations. Gru and his sidekick, the practical, no-nonsense Lucy (Kristen Wiig), pose as store owners in a shopping mall where the stolen serum is thought be hidden.
A prime suspect is Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the gregarious, preening owner of the mallâ€™s Mexican restaurant, Salsa & Salsa. He bears a suspicious resemblance to El Macho, a legendary outlaw who supposedly died while riding a shark into an active volcano with explosives strapped on his back. Sure enough, they are one and the same. Eduardoâ€™s son, Antonio (Moises Arias), who struts around like a shifty-eyed teenage Valentino, takes an instant shine to Gruâ€™s eldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), who swoons at the first sight of him.
An early sign that Gru has a formidable foe is the capture by magnet of his legion of cute, obedient yellow Minions, whom the serum transforms into an enemy force of furry purple warriors. But like Margoâ€™s ill-fated crush, the premise is rushed; an antidote to the serum is concocted almost as soon as the mass abduction takes place.
Meanwhile, Gruâ€™s youngest daughter, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), dreams that Lucy might become her new mother. This fantasy is the ickier side of a movie that crosses the line from sweet to saccharine. It is not a good sign for the future of this franchise that â€œDespicable Me 2â€ might as well be waving a sign that pleads, â€œLove me, love me, love me!