“Pins and needles!!!”
There have been many pretenders over the years to Pixar’s crown for CGI animation supremacy. Many have tried to recreate the magic touch that helped the likes of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Wall-E, Up and Finding Nemo become such well-loved films, and although some have come close financially (the overkill of Ice Age adventures for example), none have been able to match the real genius of Pixar. That said, in 2010, there was a surprising breakout. Despicable Me, a film that focused on the villain doing villainous, unspeakable things, was not only a critical and commercial success, but one of a few non-Pixar efforts that successfully combined humour, fun and heart to great effect.
Ironically, Despicable Me comes from the same minds of the Ice Age franchise, but was such a blast of fresh air, that it has now delivered a sequel that is just as good, if not better.
Gru (Steve Carell, great), the quasi-French/Dutch, Dr. Evil looking villain, is back. Having given up the villain game for his newly adoptive girls Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher, adorable), Edith (Dana Gaier, fierce) and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove, loveable) in Part 1, we find a mellower, more chilled super-villain: legitimate business ventures involving jams and jellies, as well as being a fully-fledged dad, Gru and his girls, as well as those loveable Minions, are having a ball. But his trusted right-hand man, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, side-lined), isn’t having as much fun, and soon enough he has left Gru to return to villainy.
As with the first film, the strength of Despicable Me 2 is once again in its mix of warmth, colour and slapstick humour. With the focus this time on the family unit of Gru and the girls (check out the hilarious opening scene at Agnes’ birthday party), it could have trapped itself in an overdose of sentimentality and schmaltz. But while co-creators Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul do enhance the family dynamic as the girls yearn for both a mother figure as well as a girlfriend for Gru, it’s never forced, and is at times genuinely affectionate. One scene in particular with sweet Agnes is a heartfelt and tender as Jesse the Cowgirl or Lotso-Huggin-Bear’s abandonments in Toy Story 2 and 3 respectively.
That said, however, the film’s biggest success of “Me 2″, however, is left to the Minions, those crazy yellow-skinned helpers who have set the world alight since their debut. More, more, more was the cry from fans, and the makers duly oblige here, with more Minions that you could possibly imagine, and with it more slapstick than a Marx Brothers movie. But they could quite easily have been the film’s downfall, and it’s a testament to Coffin and … that while they have multiplied their involvement in proceedings 10-fold, this isn’t Minions: The Movie that many had feared. Once again, the blend is spot on, and for every Minion joke, whether pretending to be Superman, imitating ducks and cats, or simply laughing at the word “butt”, it’s never overkill. That can be saved for the real Minions movie, which is set for release in 2015.
Despicable Me 2 won’t win any awards for its story, which is thin at best; Gru is asked by the Anti-Villain League, led by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan, bland) and Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, excellent) to help them catch the latest super-villain terrorising the world, queue wacky scheme, crazy gadgets and silly accent. Strangely however, the villainy is weak compared to Gru and Vector’s stand-offs previous.
But gripping plot and compelling dialogue isn’t what we came for. We came for laughter, fun, love and Minions, exactly what we get. Kids will lap up everything here, and will want to see it again and again, and while that may be an annoyance for adults, rest assured there is plenty for the little kid inside of them to keep them entertained too. Pure entertainment for the whole family, Despicable Me 2 is a joy from start to finish, and here’s hoping we get an “epic conclusion” as is seemingly the franchise norm these days. Wonderful.
Despicable Me 2 is released in UK cinemas on Friday.
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