The original movie closed on an unrecognisable supervillain reading a self-penned bedtime story to his brand new family. Feisty orphans Margo, Edith and adorable Agnes had made a home of Gru’s lair and reduced his ice cold heart to slush. A crisis at Agnes’ fairy princess birthday party opens this sequel with a beaming smile that shines from the screen as brightly as the captivating animation. Fortunately her adoptive Dad looks fab in a frock and early laughs set the tone for the entertaining journey ahead.
Gru has retired from a lifetime of misdeeds and now occupies his Minions and mind with something potentially lucrative but altogether gentler – jam making! Naughty pensioner Dr. Nefario returns as overseer of a Minion army in battle to create world beating condiments – Gru’s “signature line of jams and jellies”. Only two obstacles barricade their road to success: the jam tastes quite disgusting and Dr. Nefario is still sort of…evil. Gru himself is a little distracted these days, his work for the Anti-Villain League (DM2’s MI-6 – replete with good guys and great gadgets) has granted him a legitimate way to use his powers and his brand new partner Lucy is provoking emotions he’d rather repress.
The girls are growing and changing too and beginning to feel the lack of a mother figure in their lives. They are determined that Gru will find a lady friend, despite the candidates he has been offered thus far being far from mummy material. Margo is even ready to fall in love, though her Dad’s feelings on the subject have yet to evolve from murderous rage. AVL’s investigation into a monstrous missing serum, Margo’s new relationship and a macho blast from Gru’s own past soon intersect, with devastating consequences. Minions are vanishing like bursting bubbles and some things purple and wicked this way come…
From the outset, the huge amount of heart crammed into Despicable Me 2 is absolutely evident. Directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin with producers Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy return to the helm once more. In fact the list of returning Despicable alums is epic, with editors, animators, composers and writers all reuniting to bring Gru and his girls back to life. Writers Cinco Paul and Ken Dario have once again crafted a sharp and witty script that resists the urge to either patronise or pander to its young audience, instead sweeping them up in an inclusive adventure which still has plenty of inside jokes for any grown-ups present. It’s always fun to play spot the references when you’re a hopeless movie geek. The use of 3D is artful and entirely appropriate – from soaring Bond-esque sequences to Minion comic relief – the technology is utilised beautifully.
Steve Carell again brings his trademark sad clown disposition to the voice of Gru, further glimpses of a lonely childhood making his tumble down the rabbit hole of first love all the more moving. Kristen Wiig is reincarnated as Lucy, the enthusiastic AVL agent with an accessory for every occasion – even vindictive blind dates – and an aptitude for Krump. The sometime narcissistic thwack of Russell Brand’s presence is neutered by the medium of cartoon – those jazz hands mercifully absent – and what lingers suits Dr. Nefario well with a character arc that is great fun to follow. If the cheeky, chattering Minions (voiced by DM2’s directors) are as irresistible as ever, their serum-enhanced alter-egos are a whole other gun of piranha – hairy and rabid Ribena berries with an appetite for destruction. My vote for MVP though goes to El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) – THE most macho villain of all – whose missile-straddling, shark-wrangling demise was a highlight in a film chock full of highs.
Gru’s evolution – from a man who jet-washes away the notion of a date to a hero avowing to save his sweetheart – elevates this to something more than a funny watch. A flashback to an early schoolyard rejection combined with a horrendous dating experience made me actually ache with melancholy for our poor reformed bad guy and his burgeoning affection for Lucy left me giddy with glee. Despicable Me 2 is a delightful box of 3D delights, with dastardly villains, deliciously vicious beasties AND a genuinely sweet love story. I loved it. Gru grows on me more with every despicable new caper – this is impeccable family fun. This would be a five star review were it not for a pair of lazy fart gags and a wearying use of YMCA in the closing act. That being said, the Minions’ other big number is such a work of retro art that it could earn all four stars by itself!
Despicable Me 2 opens in the UK on 28th June