Just look at them.
They turn me into a pile of giggling mush.
Seriously, though, I laughed harder at this movie than I have at any, uh, grown-up movie in a long time. And I don’t even like sequels! But damn it if the minions didn’t reel me in. They’re fantastic.
Despicable Me 2 is hilarious and adorable and a welcome respite from the “complexities” and “darkness” of most other movies. Because sometimes you want to go into a theater and walk out smiling because all the characters got their happy endings. Spoiler alert, this is technically a children’s movie, so you won’t be emotionally distraught. (Up is as wrenching as it’ll get, for awhile anyhow.) The usuals are back–Gru (Steve Carell), his three daughters, his weird old man assistant (a very bass-y Russell Brand)–but a few new characters pepper this whimsical world. A few favorites: El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), a.k.a. el enemigo de la pelicula, giant-chinned Silas (Steve Coogan), and reedy Lucy (Kristen Wiig). It’s an endless delight imagining all these people waving their arms around in the recording studio. Nevermind casting two very American people to play Foreign Villains (Carell & Bratt). It works because it’s silly.
Let’s go back to that giant-chinned thing for a second, and elaborate on the silly a bit more. This movie’s bread and butter is silly. The voices are exaggerated, the proportions of the bodies are exaggerated, the hair is exaggerated (or sometimes nonexistent), yet not so much that it detracts from the sweetness of the story. Yes, Gru is a giant, possibly Eastern European ex-villain, but he’s not hardened enough not to be a good dad. His kids bring out the best in him, and they say just the right grounding things at the right time. (Because it is a movie.) Yes, Lucy is a wacky agent, but she’s also a lonely lady, and maybe if this were a live-action romantic comedy, we’d see that her feistiness is a shield against men who could burn her. Maybe this movie is preparing kids for the tropes of grown-up movies. Anyway. Lucy is not lonely in a weak way, at least I didn’t think so, and I appreciated that she was a very independent, not falsely doting female character for Gru’s daughters to look up to without drooling over. Well, except for that one time when one of them drooled over her. Alas.
And let’s go back to those minions, because they absolutely define silly. Tying all of these characters together in the spirit of spoilerdom, Gru is hired by Silas to find the villain who invented a serum that turns little animals into purple killing machines. I’m surprised it took me so long to connect the fact that the minions would eventually be the target of this serum, but nevermind that. I’m naive. Suffice it to say, eventually the yellow darlings are transformed into still-possibly-a-little-cute grape gremlins, and it’s up to Gru and his crew to change them back. Which happens, because frankly they don’t look right in that deeper shade.
Their transformation is probably my least favorite part of the movie. I enjoy the minions for aesthetic, obvious reasons, but also because they are weirdly smart. They know Boyz II Men songs. They most likely have seen a Stooges movie or two. They get jealous of each other. They’re like adults trapped in shapeless child bodies. They are the backbone of Gru’s whole operation, and of the franchise that is Despicable Me. So despite the fact that I hated seeing them turned into demi-demons, I was pleased that they were more central to the plot.
I mean, really. Look at that photo.