By Saad Anjum

 

Once again, Universal Pictures brings back Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his enjoyable minions in the animated summer sequel to the hit movie Despicable Me. An enjoyable film for all ages, Despicable Me 2 portrays Gru as an amicable animated character who has given up his past life as a super villain in favor of becoming a stressed-out single father for his three adopted children. In this movie, Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to stop an evil plot and save the world. The story line focuses on identifying and capturing the villain with an interesting sideline—one with the romantic interest and AVL agent, Lucy (voiced by Kristin Wiig).

 

 

Gru’s adopted daughters shine in this film, as Margo fields a romantic interest of her own, to her adoptive father’s dismay, and Agnes enjoys a decent amount of the spotlight. From the beginning of the movie, the three children are a source of giggles in the audience alongside the incredibly funny minions. Yet, there are a few plot strands left hanging during the film. For example, Margo’s romantic interest ends abruptly in the midst of a fast-paced scene.

 

 

Not only is this movie appealing for all ages, it also includes elements of the plot that raise some serious bioethical concerns. <> The tool behind the evil plot is a mutating chemical agent that turns anything into an indestructible, killing machine. In one of the first scenes featuring this chemical, we see a scientist in a secret laboratory injecting the chemical into a rabbit. In turn, the rabbit mutates into a large, purple, and rabid monster form of its original self and mauls the scientist. From genetic engineering to enhancement to animal research, the PG-rated film presents issues that raise some ethical concerns to our younger generations.

 

After the film, children may be left wondering: what types of animal research is acceptable? What are our obligations to animals used in research? What are acceptable goals for genetic engineering? Should genetic engineering be used for enhancement or strictly limited to treating disease? Big questions for little people…

 

When Gru’s minions all become mutated to form an indestructible army for the evil villain of the movie, the solution is an antidote that reverses the effects of the mutating chemical. Does this antidote—that was seemingly discovered by a henchman with unbelievable ease—inappropriately minimize the serious risks of genetic engineering or research with animals? Granted, for any work of fiction, and maybe a children’s movie in particular, facts are often valued only to the extent that they do not disrupt the plot. Certainly, the storyline about the chemical provides comic relief, which is perhaps the foremost goal of Despicable Me 2. However, I do think that we have a responsibility to raise awareness about ethical challenges in younger generations.

 

Any qualms about easy ethical fixes aside, I did enjoy the film and will say that, while Despicable Me 2 does not surpass its predecessor, fans will not be disappointed. And, they will also come away with a small dose of bioethics.

 


Saad Anjum
is a undergraduate bioethics intern at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a writing seminars major at Johns Hopkins University

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