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Despicable Me 2

Director: Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong

(Universal Studios; US theatrical: 3 Jul 2013 (General release); UK theatrical: 28 Jun 2013 (General release); 2013)

Undercover

“Papples!” Yes, the minions are back. Yellow and giggly and be-goggled, the minions haven’t changed much from the first time you saw them, in Despicable Me. They’re still wearing blue overalls, following orders from the supervillain Gru (Steve Carell), and performing massive manual labor in the basement.


But as much as the minions seem the same, they’re also, slightly, not. As the sequel—so aptly named Despicable Me 2—begins, they’re following orders not in the interest of evil, but to build Gru’s new business, namely, “making delicious jams and jellies.” He means to go straight now, to be a model citizen and dad for his delightful adopted daughters—Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and little Agnes (Elsie Fisher)—and so he can’t be committing crimes.


The minions are not so good at this do-gooding, however, and as you look over the basement floor, the scene is generally chaotic. For one thing, the recipe, concocted by Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), is more dreadful than delicious, and for another, the minions are a mess, slipping and sliding and sniggering madly as they dance and crush fruits with their black-rubber-booted feet.


And one more thing: the minions are gay.


More accurately, a few of them are. This isn’t to say the minions are sexual or know what sex is. Rather, they’re a same-non-sexed family, some donning wigs and dresses and even a French maid’s outfit, whether because it’s fun or to fit the current assignment (say, vacuuming). Through it all, the minions are doting and adorable, eager to please and at the same time happy to get away with whatever they might, in love with each other and their boss—who, by the way, appears early in the film in a fairy princess costume, with pink gown and wand. If this bit of dress up is more or less motivated (it’s Agnes’ birthday party and the professional fairy princess cancels), the look on Gru’s face as he pretends to be a girl before a swarm of sugar-zapped, Agnes-sized girls is enough to make you wonder whether his famous metro fashion sense (the scarf, the sharp shoes) betokens something else, too.


The film is quick to quash this wonder, as the “guhrls”, in Gru’s version of the word, are soon encouraging him to find them a mom, thus sending him forth on the movie’s primary adventure, his courtship of Lucy (Kristen Wiig). It helps that their meeting and subsequent relationship is a function of his villainy, or rather, his former villainy. She’s an agent for the Anti-Villain League, which recruits him when they learn of a plot to commit some terrible deed but can’t pinpoint the plotter. Reluctant to work for the good guys, Gru is yet intrigued by the chance again to have access to high tech gizmos, high stakes deceptions, and multi-terrain vehicles. And when Lucy—who’s fond of accessory scarves too—confesses to admiring his work, well, Gru’s in.

The mission takes up too much of the film’s time and it’s not nearly clever enough (though it’s sweetened by Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira’s clever soundtrack). Lucy and Gru are assigned to pose as the new proprietors of a cupcake shop so they can spy on their fellow mall storefront operators, including the wig shop owner Floyd Eagle-san (Ken Jeong) and Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who runs a popular Mexican restaurant and also sings and dances for his diners. It happens that Eduardo has a teenage son, Antonio (Moisés Arias), on whom Margo develops an instantaneous crush.

Between his suspicion that Eduardo resembles a former villainous colleague (El Macho, who wears a Mexican wrestler’s singlet and mask) and his agitation regarding Margo’s flirtations with Antonio, Gru ends up focusing his investigative sights on the gregarious, fancy-dancing restaurateur, despite instructions from the Anti-Villain League boss (Steve Coogan) to stand down.


Yeah, okay. Back to the minions, who are disappearing, and more specifically, being kidnapped for the purposes of an experiment (by means of an injection, no less!) that renders them purple and Tasmanian-Devilishly monstrous, with wild hair, scary faces, and all manner of spastic aggressions. Here the film takes a few moments for a few more minion set pieces, to the beachfront hideaway where they’re left to believe they’re on vacation, swimming, sunning, and in one case, wearing a coconut-bra top and a grass skirt.


If it’s to be expected that the minions will be rescued and Gru’s family preserved, the reunion is celebrated with a couple of surprises, again, courtesy of the minions. A singular delightful moment begins as a minions’ rendition of an All 4 One music video, for the song “I Swear”. The minions, as ever incapable of speech, here use a French-inflected gibberish, wear white outfits (one with a beret), and roll about on a grassy hillside. It’s weird and enchanting, and reminds you of just how wonderfully gay all those ‘90s boy bands were. In case you need one more reminder, the final number is “YMCA”, per the minions, now dressed up as the Village People’s gay-iconic outfits: cowboy, construction worker, policeman, and Indian. Who knew?

Rating:

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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