‘Despicable Me 2’: What the Critics Are Saying

Universal Pictures
'Despicable Me 2'

The Universal animated sequel is set to be released Wednesday.

The Minions return for a second go-around in Despicable Me 2, the animated sequel to the popular Universal property.

Steve Carell returns as villain-turned-hero Gru, who is now being recruited by the Anti-Villain League to thwart an up-and-coming criminal mastermind, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). Carell is joined by returning stars Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan and Ken Jeong. Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud repeat their turns as directors and the inspired voices behind the scene-stealing Minions.

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The first film was a critical and box-office success to the tune of a $543 million gross and an 89 percent Fresh rating by top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Will the anticipated sequel live up to the hype set by its predecessor?

Despicable Me 2 is set to be released Wednesday, but critics have already weighed in, generally praising the Minions’ expanded role but acknowledging that the sequel lacks the heart and originality of the 2010 film.

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The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen writes he is a fan of the returning crazy characters, including the film’s star. 

“While the new edition doesn’t quite catch that inspired spark, there’s still plenty to enjoy here courtesy of those zippy visuals and a pitch-perfect voice cast led by the innately animated Steve Carell.”

Rechtshaffen adds that the film benefits from “an irresistible Looney Tunes-style nuttiness -- one even more prevalent this time around in the absence of a more substantial plotline.”

Peter Howell of The Toronto Star was more critical of the film’s uninspired recycled style, one that leaned on the fan-favorite Minions.

“What begins as inspiration in Hollywood inevitably turns to calculation. So it is that Despicable Me 2 feels slightly less fresh and more formulaic than its predecessor. Despite Gru’s warning, it has gotten older. The beguiling basics are still there, including the goofy gadgets and sly references to other films. But there are a few major twists and changes of emphasis -- Gru’s babbling Minions, once a sideshow, now come close to stealing the show. “

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Stephen Holden of The New York Times offers a rare negative review, claiming Gru’s transformation is just one example of the sequel turning too sweet, “trying so hard to double your pleasure.”

“The film … is consistently diverting and so cute you’ll want to pet it. Yet it is also weightless and lacks a center. … It is not a good sign for the future of this franchise that Despicable Me 2 might as well be waving a sign that pleads, “Love me, love me, love me!”

In his San Francisco Chronicle review, Peter Hartlaub underhandedly criticizes the film’s central narrative, which is lacking or even absent.

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“It's a credit to Despicable Me 2 that the writing can be so funny in the moment, that it takes time to realize there's no cohesive story, zero dramatic tension and nary a practical lesson for either the characters in the film or the people watching in the theater.”

The writer also calls out the visual animation team behind the sequel, stating, “The animation isn't elite, so the filmmakers go for broke with the 3D presentation, which harkens back to the comin'-at-ya gimmickry of the 1950s and 1980s.”

Stephen Whitty of The Newark Star-Ledger provides rare commentary as well, declaring that he was fonder of the sequel due to the depiction of the villainous protagonist in the original material. (“The film called him Gru, but grow on you he never did.”)

“Gru -- now a good guy, kind of the way Jimmy Cagney joined the G-Men -- is developing his own, non-Fester identity. The ‘minions’ -- the bright yellow, humanoid nubbins that do his bidding -- are more distinguishable too. And, even better, the nicely eccentric art -- characters turned into boldly geometric jumbles of cones and spheres, perched on spindly legs -- has not only survived but thrived.”

Despicable Me 2 opens in theaters in 3D Wednesday.