My eight-year-old evil genius was seriously unimpressed with one crucial thing that happened in the films Despicable Me and Megamind: the bad guys turned good. So it would seem that Despicable Me 2, the sequel, is wrongly named – there is now nothing at all despicable about the main character. It is more Responsible Me. Gru, the villain turned hero of the original, is now a devoted dad who cross dresses as a pink fairy to save his daughter’s birthday party and makes jam instead of trying to take over the world.
‘This isn’t good,’ said evil son (now nine), shaking his head and looking like there was no hope for Gru. Clearly he likes his villains to stay evil.
I can see the same challenge ahead for my own book series, St Viper’s School for Super Villains. My young readers like the fact that the super villains in training are bad – it makes them exciting. But some of my more responsible, grown up readers would like to see all the characters become heroes in the end to send out the ‘proper’ message to children. Good always wins through in the end, right? Who shall I upset?
Fortunately in Despicable Me 2, the writers have made Gru’s life as a stay-at-home dad more interesting by having him recruited by the Anti-Villain League, which has its HQ in an underwater submarine. In places the film has the look and feel of The Incredibles. The story has quirky scenes and cool gadgets. Gru’s secret agent partner, Lucy Wilde, has a lipstick taser. Personally, I’d have made it a lip salve lightsaber, which when twisted grows into a long white laser beam (Hmmm … maybe a copyright issue). The Anti-Villain League have decided it takes a villain to know one and Gru’s first and only assignment is to find the master criminal who has stolen a lethal serum which when injected into a fluffy bunny does the equivalent of feeding a Mogwai after midnight.
The film is not amazing but it is certainly good family entertainment with lots of slapstick humour. The kids I saw in the cinema all looked engaged and laughed along with the story; as did evil son. I saw no-one playing on their mum’s iphone (I did actually see this in a children’s theatre the day before). My super hero husband only nodded off for about five minutes (a record for a family movie) and there were several genuinely funny moments. Most of them involving the stars of the film, by some distance, who are the horde of little yellow ‘minions’. If they ever get bored helping Gru load the washing machine, they will be welcomed with open arms to be villainous at St Viper’s School!
It may not be any more despicable than the first film, but the entertainment is just as good. Take your young villains along for a laugh and even they won’t be too disappointed by the happy ending.