Animation within the cinema has always stood apart for me from everything else. It’s the one place where what we would wake up early on a weekend to watch as a child is able to appear in the confines of the cinema and it be okay. Nowadays the art itself has reached a new level of interest with people going more real, some going even more surreal and some just want to have a talking (or pretty much talking) horse.
In the world of Gru (Steve Carell) and his daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher), the days of being a supreme villain who does worldwide conquests are over. He’s moved on. However, there is still someone else enacting such grand schemes and due to the nature of them Agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as well as the Anti-Villain League reach out to Gru to help them find out who it is who’s behind this dastardly plot.
Sound Saturday morning enough for you? I think it is. And it succeeds at it so well.
When I think about the evolution of animation as a genre this film seems smack dab in the middle of all of it, touching on every element. When animated films began they were these tiny shorts with Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and all. They all relied on this short, sometimes without dialogue, cat and mouse game filled with physical gags. Slowly but surely the whimsical narrative of film (more specifically musical film) assimilated it’s plot structure and general ideas into full length animated movies. Then again we eventually started to see more and more animated films become like an Indiana Jones style adventure/action and as we branched out internationally (Japan and such) we see a slew of films which take on stories that would char the soul of many of its audiences and many studios wouldn’t dare to put in theatres today.
While Despicable Me 2 (and the franchise as a whole) remains a family movie it somehow feels as though it easily captures all the above versions of animated filmmaking within itself quite well. Between the minions – possibly the number one element of why this franchise is even a franchise — it covers all the silly dialogue-less physical humour and the spy story of Gru going after former bad guys who’ve all ended up working in the mall gets us the whimsy we need.
When you look back at the story of Despicable Me (the first film) you see it’s of how a man learns that these children, which he adopted as a part of his diabolical scheme of evil, ends up changing his viewpoint on life. This story, partly because of the film’s execution with all the silly humour and animation, may come off as just a heartwarming tale that we dismiss very quickly but it does queue us into this character of Gru. So when Despicable Me 2 begins and we see the film start to reach for the idea of a women in Gru’s life and dating and all it not so much asks us to look in ourselves and change our feelings on being cold hearted ‘screw the world’ bastards but definitely feels important. Once again disguised lovely by the use of silly gags and enough distractions to make it into the perfect date movie but it still works as a moment that makes all these cute cuddly stuff so much more meaningful to the audience when it’s all over. This is the seriously engaging part of the animation which is what makes the spectacular animated films stand out from the paint by numbers children movies we see every year and I applaud the filmmakers for this.
Otherwise this a film of everything clicking. Even the silly villains we meet along the way are laugh inducing. If you thought the likes of Ramsbottom, the head of the AVL, and his name made you laugh you’ll enjoy the crazy nature of this movie from start to end.