Despicable Me 2 lives up to the title in all the worst ways

| July 03, 2013
All eyes are on Gru to charm us again with his likeable loathsomeness. And ... he can't.
All eyes are on Gru to charm us again with his likeable loathsomeness. And ... he can't.

What makes Despicable Me 2 so enraging is that the first film challenged us. Not a lot. But it doesn't take much to shake up a Hollywood paradigm.

Casting a villain as the hero is one way. Filling out a cast of characters with three wildly individual little girls bursting with personality is another way. And, of course, the simple fact that the first film was not based on a comic book or a line of toys or another older movie was almost earth-shattering. We had no idea what to expect. Amazing.

I thought, at the time: These guys get it. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. They get that we need new stories and perspectives, and they get that it's possible to offer such scary things and still be entertaining.

But I was wrong. Because they have reverted to tedious, narrowminded Hollywood form with Me 2. The appealing premise of the first film, Gru's humorous despicableness, cannot carry over, because the first film was all about the little girls curing Gru of his villainy, which they did entirely too well. I'm sure I unconsciously imagined that the same team behind Me would have found a way around this creative dilemma, so it makes Me 2 even more of a crushing disappointment that they didn't.

It's an almost terrifying reversal we get instead. Where Me ended with a happy, unconventional family, Me 2 is all about finding Gru (the voice of Steve Carell) a wife, so that the family can be "normal." Somehow this "naturally" translates into a "comedic" running motif about how women are too fat, too ugly, too hairy, too obnoxious, too pushy, too anything-but-"ladylike" for Gru. One particularly awful scene apparently demanded, for comedy's sake, that an unpleasant evening end with Gru drugging his date and hauling her home atop a car as if she were, perhaps, a deer slain on a hunt.

There's plenty despicable, all righty. But none of it is the sort of all-encompassing misanthropy that made Gru so hilarious an anti-hero in the first film. The drugged-woman-atop-the-car bit is achieved, in fact, with the help of Lucy (the voice of Kristen Wiig), an agent for the Anti-Villain League, which has enlisted Gru's help to hunt down a new supervillain before he can put his very bad master plan into play. Lucy is one of the Good Guys, so as far as the movie is concerned, being treated like a prey animal is appropriate punishment for a woman who is annoying but harmless.

Me 2 seems not to think there's anything despicable in its depiction of its possible supervillain suspects, Asian stereotype Floyd (the voice of Ken Jeong) or Mexican stereotype Eduardo (the voice of Benjamin Bratt), the latter of whom may even be supervillain El Macho, former nemesis of Gru's. It's just all in good fun.

All this unpleasantness — Me 2 is crude, racist, sexist and in entirely well-worn ways — almost completely drains whatever charm may have lingered from the first film. Nothing that made the first film work has been retained. Well, OK: Gru's blobby yellow worker-bee Minions are still very funny. They could have cut away all the non-Minion stuff here and ended up with a bunch of Minion shorts. And that would have been just fine.


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

What a bitter review. The only thing I could take away from it was that hand-wringing liberals should just steer clear of the cinema if all they can do is see the worst in everything.

report 41 likes, 17 dislikes   
Posted by Joshua Hughes on 07/03/2013 at 3:03 AM

Wow... "Me 2 is crude, racist, sexist and in entirely well-worn ways"? Seriously?

The movie was fun, silly and exactly what I had hoped for from a fun and silly movie. I suppose you *could* (and have) over-analyzed this light-hearted movie as though it was Tolstoy or Plath - but I think most people would simply enjoy the movie for what it is. Fun!

Lighten up, Ms. Johanson.

report 25 likes, 10 dislikes   
Posted by Mr_Thorns on 07/09/2013 at 7:07 AM

In some ways I agree. Steriotypes are annoying. But in the end I think I laughed once. Just not a good movie. Boring, tedious, reaching. It's like they took a bunch of shorts, added a Mexican, slapped them together into a movie. I'm not impressed. If you liked the lorax or rango you might like this film. It lacks heart. I wonder if they even had fun making this movie. Or maybe this was just a really long preview for minions comming out in 2014. Sad sad sad...

report 7 likes, 12 dislikes   
Posted by metalkingaboutmovies on 07/14/2013 at 5:46 PM

As a mexican who saw this film in a theater full of Mexicans in Mexico, I can tell you: nobody was offended. See, the rest of the world doesn't expect anything better from americans, so we take it with a grin and enjoy the show. If there's anybody offended out there it's the mexicanAMERICANS or whatever-AMERICANS or white-guilt people who've sold their souls to the PC apocalypse where comedic violence only ever must happens to cis-gendered, white, well-accomodate men, otherwise it's wrong to laugh about it. I suppose you didn't take notice of the main character being humiliated by dressing in drag and being assaulted by the female lead, then unceremoniously being thrown into the trunk of her car as if the role of the stereotypical caveman who knocks her bride unconscious and drags her to his man cave to commit rape was reversed. Or, you know, maybe it was just a bit of fun.

Tell me, if men and female are equal in regards to rights and social standing, or at least, we want them to be equal, why is it that it's wrong for a white female character to be the subject of cartoon violence but it's perfectly acceptable for a male to be the victim?

Yes, the film wasn't as good as the first one and it definitely didn't change my life, but it isn't an atrocity that spits on the face of society and equal rights for everyone. Good day.

report 25 likes, 10 dislikes   
Posted by Rowl Hadrian on 07/21/2013 at 7:29 PM

I'm a liberal, a minority, and a feminist---and I loved the movie. The female character in the film who is "treated like a prey animal" according to the reviewer, was NOT "annoying but harmless." Lucy (not Gru) shoots her with a dart because the woman was about to pull Gru's hairpiece off in front of an entire restaurant. It was a bit of comedy and it would be a fair bit of exaggeration to call this evidence of some sexist worldview.

Yes, lighten up.....including Mr. Liberal Basher up there.

report 9 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by GePaloma on 12/30/2013 at 12:10 PM

This reviewer is a perfect example of the 'finds everything offensive' brigade'. I hope this reviewer stays home for the rest of her life as it is obvious she finds the world just too mean and oppressive.

Posted by Colin Rose on 12/05/2014 at 1:27 AM
Showing 1-6 of 6

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