Gru and his lovable army of yellow minions are back in this fun sequel to 2010’s Despicable Me – which, although enjoyable, struggles at times to emerge from the dastardly shadow of its predecessor.
Once sour-faced and bitter at the world, Gru (brilliantly voiced by Steve Carell) has now completely renounced his evil ways in favour of a sweet and innocent life making jams and jellies. However, when a mystery bad guy gets his evil hands on a chemical compound that transforms cute bunnies into killing machines, Gru is kidnapped and submerged into the underwater headquarters of the Anti-Villain League, led by the unfortunately-named Silas Ramsbottom (voiced by Alan Partridge himself, Steve Coogan), to reluctantly provide his unique insight and diabolical expertise.
Most of the familiar faces from the first film are here such as the decrepit Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand) and Gru’s three adopted children – Margo, Edith and the adorable Agnes – to whom he has become a doting and loving father. Disappointingly though, there is no return for the hilarious Jason Segel as Vector, Gru’s tech-geek, lunar-theft rival; who was perhaps the best and most despicable character in the original.
Instead, several new characters are introduced that, sadly, struggle to provide the same direction or magnitude that Vector brought to Despicable Me. Kristen Wiig, who voiced the detestable and plump orphanage owner Miss Hattie in the original, returns to lend her vocal talents to a different character – Gru’s AVL kidnapper and new love interest, Agent Lucy Wilde. Although she’s likable enough, Wilde is anything but wild. She’s far too pleasant and brings out a much softer and less entertaining side to Gru.
Part of what made the original so entertaining and unique was that it told the story from the villain’s perspective – and it would’ve been nice to see Gru return to his old, reprehensible self for a while in Despicable Me 2. So it’s a shame that the most terrible act he commits in the sequel is throwing a child’s Frisbee down a sewage drain. However, despite becoming more loveable than despicable, he is still a very funny character. One particular sequence where Gru attaches a sensor to his belt, and is thrusting his crotch at objects in an attempt to find the compound, had the audience buckling over with laughter. The marvellous minions, who have been given their own spin-off movie set for release sometime next year, also have a much larger role in the sequel and provide some excellent comedy moments.
Unfortunately though, Despicable Me 2 doesn’t live up to its name, as Gru and his crew are much too nice. It’s still fairly entertaining and kids will absolutely love it, but it doesn’t have the first film’s universal appeal. Older fans of Despicable Me won’t be feeling over the moon at the lack of diabolic schemes and dark humour that made the original so special.
by Gary Woodcock