Despicable Me 2,
directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
(Universal, 2013)

It's extremely obvious that the team behind the brilliant Despicable Me understood that it was a good idea to stick with the formula for the sequel and deliver what worked the first time around. There are times when, in spite of the razor-sharp wit and charm, the story does lag, and the Minions seem to have gone tribble and now number in the millions. But they are a delight to watch, so you never get sick of them, and there are enough feel-good moments to prove the film's worth.

Former evil mastermind Gru (Steve Carrell) -- former because he's a full-time dad now -- is busy assembling a new set of skills as a father to the girls who stole his heart in the first installment. No more stealing the moon: Gru doesn't have time for evil, however much that may be a source of grief to Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), whose boredom makes him wander away from a home filled with girls and girl stuff. Gru's love life is also a bit messed up since his clueless neighbor tries to set him up with blind dates. Of course, Gru's retirement doesn't last, as a powerful new supercriminal, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), launches a new plan for world domination, one that involves turning the minions into crazy, purple-skinned little monsters hungry for destruction.

Recruited by the Anti-Villain League and partnered up with zany Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), on whom he develops an immediate crush, Gru has to contend with minions gone mad, a gadget-loving girl who actually likes him, and his daughter's crush on El Macho's son, all on the way to retrieving the vials of PX-41 that transform loyal, cute minions into their Bizarro-style opposites.

Yes, the formula is a little pat. It's not quite as inspired as Despicable Me. But there are plenty of good ideas and funny moments. The animation is terrific, full of eye-candy visuals and inventively arranged action sequences (think jelly-gun battles) that are as hyperactive as the narrative itself and as wacky as the goggle-eyed minions, who steal every scene with their giggling pratfalls and musical numbers. They are the best sight-gag comedians since the Keystone Kops. It doesn't improve on, but does keep brisk pace with, the original.

There isn't a high degree of emotional impact but it's still able to deliver a fairly decent story in a boisterously charming way. There are worse ways to spend time with your kids.

review by
Mary Harvey

3 January 2015

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