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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Despicable Me 2, the sequel to 2010's hit supervillain adventure Despicable Me, features gadgets and weapons like the original, but now with the aim of stopping "evil" instead of perpetrating it. There's a romantic subplot between Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an Anti-Villain League agent. Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) has her first crush and boyfriend as well, although both couples mostly flirt and stare at each other (the adults do kiss). Language is mild ("nutjob," "sheep's butt"), and the violence is cartoonish and silly but does include biological weapons and a taser gun. Mexican restaurant owner Eduardo is depicted somewhat stereotypically (his restaurant is Salsa and Salsa, he has a pet chicken he calls el pollito, and he throws a lavish Cinco de Mayo party). Otherwise, this is a minions-filled animated adventure for the entire family.
What's the story?
In DESPICABLE ME 2, retired supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) lives happily with his three girls -- Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher) -- their trusty minions, and Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), who's developing a line of jams and jellies for the family to sell. Then one day, a mysterious woman named Lucy (Kristen Wiig) kidnaps Gru and takes him to the underwater headquarters of the Anti-Villain League, where director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) explains that a dangerous bioweapon that can turn living creatures into purple killing machines has been stolen by a supervillain whom they believe is hiding at the Paradise Mall. The AVL wants Gru to infiltrate the mall and find out which shop owner has plans for world domination. Gru reluctantly agrees and poses as a cupcake baker, with Lucy his partner. Gru suspects the mall's Mexican restaurant owner, Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), but becomes irrational when Margo falls for Eduardo's smooth-talking son, Antonio (Moises Arias). Meanwhile, Agnes desperately wants Gru to fall in love with Lucy so she'll have a mother, and the minions keep disappearing. Gru must once again the save the day, with the girls at his side.
Is it any good?
The directors here have made an entertaining (albeit less revolutionary) sequel that's worthy of the hype, particularly when it comes to the minions. The first Despicable Me was such a revelation: A supervillain antihero meeting three adorable orphans seemed like it would be hard to beat in originality. The quirky little yellow minions are irresistibly hilarious, and they steal virtually every scene they're in with their banana-loving, mischief-making shenanigans -- culminating in a laugh-aloud minion cover of the '90s ballad "I Swear" (a lovely bit of nostalgia for parents who grew up in the '80s and '90s). In addition to the fantastically funny minions and the once again wonderfully unique score by Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira, the plot is simple but sweet. Wiig's Lucy and Carell's Gru share a bantering chemistry that's definitely not the "damsel in distress meets her prince" dynamic of so many other animated romances.
Ultimately, the Despicable Me movies are about family, and that's what makes them so easy to love. Gru is now a father first, spy/retired supervillain second. His girls are his everything, and when Margo's heart is broken by Antonio (the ultimate cool tween, with his floppy hair and leather jacket), or when Agnes (who rivals Monsters, Inc.'s Boo as the cutest animated child ever) can't recite a poem about motherhood, he's there with a kind word and an encouraging hug. Forget Daddy Warbucks -- Gru is the best bald adoptive dad in popular culture! Even the scenes of mild peril will obviously end up all right, because audiences know that a super dad will do anything for his kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how sequels typically compare to the original movies. Do you think Despicable Me 2 is as good as Despicable Me? What other sequels live up to their predecessors?
How does the cartoon action in this movie compare to others you've seen? Does this kind of media violence have more or less impact than what's in live-action movies? Why?
Some critics have called the depiction of restaurant owner Eduardo stereotypical. Do you agree? Why or why not?
How do the two romances in the movie compare to each other? In what ways does Gru's experience with Lucy help him understand Margo's situation with Antonio?
- In theaters: July 3, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: December 10, 2013
- Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Kristen Wiig, Steve Carell
- Directors: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Misfits and underdogs
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude homor and mild action
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