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Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/10/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/22/2013
I hate to sound like a movie snob, but went I watch a film, I want to be able to give it my undivided attention. I don't like any distractions while I'm watching a movie. I'm not against the notion of a movie party, and I've attended plenty, but, again, this can take away from the movie. This is why I've found myself growing less and less interested in see movies in the theater. Case in point -- this summer, I took the family to see Despicable Me 2, a movie which we were most anxious to see. However, the two adult women behind us (who were not accompanying children) began laughing hysterically during the trailers and didn't let up until the film was finished. And I mean laughing incredibly loudly. (And when the film was over, one commented "That was cute.") So, I was very much looking forward to reviewing Despicable Me 2, so that I could finally see the movie again and for the first time.
You'll remember that in Despicable Me, notorious super-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) adopted three girls, Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher), as part of a scheme, but then found himself changing his way and deciding to be an actual father to them. As Despicable Me 2 opens, we find Gru and the girls in domestic bliss. Gru has turned his lab into a business and with the help of his many Minions, he is now making jelly. Gru is then captured by Lucy Wilde (voiced by Kristen Wiig) of the Anti-Villain League, who takes her to meet the group's leader, Silas Ramsbottom (voiced by Steve Coogan). There, Gru learns that a dangerous experimental chemical has been stolen and the League wants Gru, who knows how to think like a villain, to help them find it. Gru reluctantly agrees and soon finds himself staking out the local mall with Lucy's help. But, while Gru is working on this case, he must also keep an eye on the girls, as Margo has a crush on the son of a local merchant.
First things first -- the makers of Despicable Me 2 know what we want and they give it to us in spades. Yes, rest assured that there is plenty of Minion action in the film. These bizarre yellow gibberish-speaking creatures steal the show, whether they be making jelly, caring for the girls, and doing that really bizarre thing which they did just before the closing credits. The animators do a fantastic job of giving the Minions very human traits and despite the fact that we can't understand a word they are saying, we know what they mean and we can't help but laugh. And while the Minions are certainly entertaining here, nothing can recapture the experience of going into the first film not knowing what to expect and being pleasantly surprised by the antics of these little guys.
That's not the only thing which has changed from the first film and this brings us to the problems with Despicable Me 2, which at first (or even second, as was my case) glance are hard to spot. The movie features most of the characters from the first film and their behaviors and personalities haven't changed all that much, so what's the problem. Towards the end of the movie, I realized that nice, family-man Gru simply isn't as entertaining as the villainous Gru from the first film. Watching Gru have a change-of-heart while still embracing his misanthropic nature made the first film funny and gave it a definite edge. Here, Gru comes across as emasculated and the result isn't nearly as fun. Sure, he's bossy at times and does pull some weapons on people, but he's lost his edge, and with that so has the movie.
The movie also doesn't get much help from the story. The idea of having Gru use his villainous skills for good isn't a bad one and I see what the writers were doing by placing bah hum-bug Gru in a colorful mall. But, the plan backfires, as the mall is a somewhat bizarre place. Gru doesn't seem as out-of-place here as the writers want him to be. In addition, movies like this are often only as strong as their villain, and the one featured here (I won't say who it is, in the event that you haven't seen the movie) may have bravado, but he's very one-dimensional and never feels like a good nemesis for Gru.
If Despicable Me 2 were the first film in the series, then I probably wouldn't judge it so harshly, but the film pales in comparison to the original and thus I must point out its flaws. The movie isn't a train-wreck, as it does has some great lines and funny moments (Gru's chip hat gets me every time), but the movie lacks any sort of true spark and the domestication of Gru spills out into the movie itself. Given that the film was a monstrous box-office hit, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing more of Gru in the future and I hope that he comes back angry and ready to be evil once again.
Despicable Me 2 could have easily done without the Gru dating angle on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on obvious grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably blues and yellows, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is great and we can see the work which went into creating textures for objects. The depth, even in this 2D version, is very good. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, and we are often treated to sounds coming from off-screen which emanate in the left or right channels. The surround sound effects are great as well, as we get detailed sounds from the rear channels. The action scenes blend these elements to create a nice audio package which includes effective bass from the subwoofer.
The Despicable Me 2 Blu-ray Disc contains a number of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs 46 seconds. This is simply a slightly longer version of a scene from the finished film. The Disc contains three "Mini-movies" -- "Puppy" (5 minutes), "Panic in the Mailroom" (5 minutes), and "Training Wheels" (5 minutes) -- each of which has an introduction by Steve Carell as Gru. None of these are great, but they do supply some laughs. Of the three, "Puppy" is the best, while "Panic in the Mailroom" is far too slapsticky...and where are all of those boxes going to and coming from? We also get "Making of the Mini-Movies" (6 minutes) which contains comments from the filmmakers. "The Minions" (3 minutes) gives an overview of the yellow creatures, and has those involved in the film given their opinion on them. We hear about the ideas behind the "Evil Minions" (4 minutes) and how the characters were formed. "A Gru-Some Transformation" (5 minutes) looks at how Gru's personality and world-view has changed in the second movie. "El Hombre Malo: The Villainy of El Macho" (4 minutes) shows us the origins of the character, the character's design, and comments from Benjamin Bratt. "Gru's Girls" (6 minutes) profiles Margot, Edith, and Agnes, and how they've changed since the first film. This contains comments from Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gaier. "Gadgets Galore" (4 minutes) offers concept art of the various spy devices seen in the film.
Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long