Sunday, May 18, 2014

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, and Christopher Meledandri
Nomination: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song - Pharrell Williams for "Happy"

For anyone with a radio, television internet connection, or just a pair of ears, it's been pretty much impossible to avoid the ubiquity of the Pharrell Williams song "Happy" from Despicable Me 2.  The song is exactly as described, an upbeat Curtis Mayfield throwback capable of making even the most despicable smile.  The song is the perfect match for Despicable Me 2, a charming and upbeat film that has little in the way of drama or story, instead focusing solely on making its audience smile.

At the outset of Despicable Me 2, we find the former supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) enjoying life as a parent, but he seems to have moments where he longs for the excitement of his former life as a villain.  This would be the obvious direction for the sequel, allowing for Gru to return to his attempts at villainy.  Instead, Gru is recruited for a spy mission, allowing him to use his dastardly powers for good.  Gru quickly locks in on the target, and despite resistance from his partner (voiced by Kristen Wiig) and superiors, he is soon proven right.  Sure enough, Gru attempts to stop the target's plot, and has little trouble doing so without any real excitement or ingenuity.  Every character is exactly as they seem, no one has hidden agendas, and no one must make any difficult decisions...for any deviation from this might cause the audience not to be happy.

But despite the lack of story, Despicable Me 2 has one thing going for it, and in a big way: minions.  Universal Pictures struck gold with the breakout stars of the first Despicable Me film, as the minions have stolen the show from the other characters and become the most memorable thing about the Despicable Me franchise.  The minions are wonderfully weird, adorable creatures, and they steal every scene they're in.  The filmmakers clearly knew what they had in the minions when making this film, and while they were used somewhat sparingly in the first film, the minions have been unleashed in the sequel, dominating nearly every scene.  And that's just fine with me.  I was still far from sick of them by the end of the film, and must admit that I'm excited about the upcoming film Minions.  Without the minions, Despicable Me 2 would have been pretty much a total flop, but they make the film watchable and even enjoyable.

Despicable Me 2 was beaten by the Disney smash Frozen in both of its categories.  Despicable Me 2 almost certainly would have fallen short of winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film in another year due to its slightness, but I can't think of a year in recent memory in which "Happy" wouldn't have taken home the trophy.  The Academy loves to reward big hit songs in this category, and "Happy" is a very good and immediately enjoyable pop song that has torched the Billboard charts.  But no song was going to beat Frozen's "Let It Go" this year, and Pharrell Williams will have to comfort himself with his seven Grammys.  With the year he's had, working on "Get Lucky," "Blurred Lines," and the songs from Despicable Me 2, I'm guessing that he is indeed quite happy.

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