Despicable Me 2 (USA, 2013)
Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove
This is the 450th film I have reviewed since joining Rotten Tomatoes in 2009. You can find all my rating and reviews, both pre- and post-blogs, here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/user/752852/
When it comes to sequels, there are a small number which are widely considered to be better than the originals: The Empire Strikes Back is better than Star Wars, The Godfather Part II is better than The Godfather, Evil Dead 2 is better than The Evil Dead, and so on. But while live-action examples are relatively easy to come by, there are very few animated films whose sequels are a genuine improvement.
Despicable Me was that its story was rather thin. The film felt like a villain-of-the-week TV episode which had been strung out to 90 minutes with a lot of unnecessary build-up. There was still a certain amount of pleasure in the central conceit (a man trying to steal the Moon), and the relationship between Gru and the girls eventually became more than simple padding. But it still felt in places like a story that needed a lift, something a little more ambitious to fully kick it into gear.
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists!, I argued that the difference between a convention and a cliché lies in "the emotional response that surrounds it: if we are enjoying ourselves, it's a convention, and if not, it's a cliché." In the case of Peter Lord's film, this was invoked to defend the more familiar elements in the face of Aardman's incredible craft and fantastically funny script. And while the level of craft on Despicable Me 2 is perhaps not quite as high (or at least not so obvious), this same argument still applies.
Finding Nemo. The Anti-Villain League is still a little too close for comfort to Austin Powers, but the film doesn't dwell on that to such an extent that it becomes a problem.
Beverly Hills Cop II, it's a change that comes from nowhere and makes little sense.
NEXT REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard (1950)