Despicable Me 2 – Minions, Ponytails, and the Nuclear Family

Netflix Project #1

So here we are – the inaugural entry of The Netflix Project, where I have to watch whatever an otherwise virginal Netflix profile tells me to. As I talked about in the introduction, the first movie that Netflix has put on my path is Despicable Me 2. Without any ratings or input, I’m simply starting with the movie Netflix claims was most popular. Let’s get into it.

In case you didn’t know, the Despicable Me franchise is the whole reason that “Minions” are a thing. They’re those little one- or two-eyed, denim-overalled, yellow-skinned Oompa-loompa creatures that are a daily guarantee on some misspelled meme posted by your aunt on Facebook. After the first movie, the characters took off as the breakout stars of the franchise, overshadowing what was a very sweet story about love and family.

Well, they’re back in Despicable Me 2 and, regrettably, the franchise seems to have realized which side the bread is buttered on, devoting a chunk of screen time to Minion schtick. Some of the highlights of the film are Minion moments but the balance feels like it’s tipping too much in their favour.

Another stand-out returning element is the youngest daughter, Agnes. In the first movie, excruciatingly adorable Agnes was the emotional linchpin that made supervillain-turned-family man Groo’s heart grow three sizes. The same thing happens here. Everything about Agnes, from her super-sweet voice to her ridiculous ponytail, is designed to put some mist in your eye. This time around, her job is to heart-breakingly pine for a mother and, from set-up to resolution, the cuteness factor is working overtime.

The real treat of Despicable Me 2 is Kristen Wiig as the voice of Lucy, a co-worker and possible love interest for Groo. Wiig’s expressive voice breathes life into a skillful, bumbling, endearing character. Groo falls for Lucy because she genuinely seems like someone worth caring for, not just because of narrative necessity.

So if the lead’s romance and his youngest daughter’s approval of it are the more effective parts of the film, then why do I have this niggling feeling about their relationship? I think the problem is with how crucial the whole new family dynamic has suddenly become. The first movie was about people realizing how much these characters need each other. Groo learned how to love and the girls got the parent they needed. Despicable Me 2 plows right through that idea by now insisting that a nuclear family is a necessity. It wouldn’t be so bad if Groo came by the relationship with Lucy organically and a family eventually grew out of it. But Agnes’ heretofore unspoken grief at not having a mother demands that she have one by the end of the movie. It seems like a real shame to have a whole movie building up to the idea that all you need is someone to love you, to then decide that while having an unconventional family is better than being alone it’s not a real family until it has a hetero couple as its base.

So what does this mean for the Netflix Project profile? According to Netflix, I can assign it one to five stars, and Despicable Me 2 gets a…

1 – Hated it
2 – Didn’t like it
3 – Liked it
4 – Really liked it
5 – Loved it

Let’s throw that rating in and see what kinds of recommendations pop out. My “Top Picks” are…

5 – Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
4 – Despicable Me
3 – Astérix: The Mansion of the Gods
2 – Cinderella
1 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Well there you have it. I’ll see you back here next time for a look at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

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