Having been entirely despicable for most of the first film, Gru is back as a caring parent and almost-respectable citizen in Despicable Me 2, the inevitable sequel. Steve Carell’s Bela Lugosi impression remains slightly dubious, but what the film promises is the same degree of charm, and the same rate of laughs as the first.
It manages it because of an increased role for the minions, the small, yellow creatures whose silly antics and amusing language also lit up the first film. Having endeared the whole world to them already, Coffin and Renaud’s decision to give them extra screen time pays off, and any scene with them in already has intrinsic comic value. They are also as a result of this popularity getting their own film next year, which is a bold move but shows that the directors also think they’re the most bankable part of the film. Gru himself still has some comic value, and new character Lucy, played by Kristen Wiig, is also sporadically amusing despite being distinctly unoriginal, conforming to the now well-established animated film trope of the somewhat wacky sidekick who the protagonist might just have feelings for.
The story, written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, is also nothing that we haven’t seen before. While the film’s quirkiness lasts throughout its 98 minute running time, the plot on its own does not contain enough to keep you interested. This is alright when the film is providing amusement regularly, but it means that it’s a level below other, more intelligent or better written storylines.
Indeed, the plotline is almost forgotten to cram in various other plot elements that do, in fact, have more of an effect. Gru’s interaction with his three daughters always has potential for more amusement and is even intelligent at times, and it does a good job of remembering what was funny from the first film and making sure to reuse them to the maximum level that they could be tolerated. Dr Nefario’s character, for example, doesn’t change but is still an endearing presence that has the capacity to make you laugh in exactly the same way he did in the first film. It basically follows its template right down to the somewhat annoying musical finish at the end, which we can all blame Shrek for starting.
Despicable Me 2 doesn’t really aim higher than its target audience of children, and for them it’s a real treat, but while there are a good number of laughs to be had, it doesn’t quite have enough to push it on to the higher level that many Pixar films occupy of being well-rounded and full of humour and heartfelt emotion for all ages. It is, however, an able and energetic sequel to the first film, and any fans of the original should be quickly taken in by its unashamed silliness and its knack for ridiculous slapstick humour.