What was so enchanting about the original Despicable Me was the chuckle-worthy streak of dastardliness that ran through it. It’s the same reason why Shrek worked: the placement of an unusual anti-hero at the heroic centre of the piece.
With Despicable Me, it was the bald-headed, beak-nosed, dyspeptic Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who was proud to be villainous, though you suspected he had a core of goodness waiting to be discovered.
In Part 2, directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul — who were also behind the original — have decided to reform Gru into a model citizen. Not only has he become a perfect father to his three gorgeous little orphan girls, he has also traded in super villainy — stealing the moon, destroying the world — for super confectionery.
Gru has now set himself up in the business of inventing jams and jellies. Unfortunately, neither he nor his once-evil henchman Dr Nefario (Russell Brand) has a sweet thumb: the products turned out by the duo and their team of yellow munchkin Minions are downright awful. Quite literally it is a case of bad sugar overload.
Ok, so you can see where this is going: the plotline about indigestible sickly-sweet concoctions is a larger metaphor to describe the film. Well, yes and no. Despicable Me2 is clawless and toothless when compared to the original, but it is also undeniably cute — from the bubbly animation to the wacky accents and appealing characters.
The storyline is serviceable rather than brilliant. The Anti Villain League hires Gru’s services to track down a missing laboratory full of super-evil serum, which makes creatures purple and evil when injected into their system. For reasons not entirely clear, this toxic compound is tracked to a shopping mall. Gru and the buoyant Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) — the crime fighter assigned to the case by the Anti Villain League — are sent as undercover mall spies to unearth the baddies and the serum.
Gru’s eye lights on the Mexican restaurateur in the mall, Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who reminds him of a super-villain from the past, El Macho. Gru is convinced that Eduardo is the bad guy — but that is equally because Eduardo’s too-cool-for-school son Antonio (Moises Arias) has a flirtation going with Gru’s eldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove).
Everything in the movie is bright and sparkling, and it makes for excellent family entertainment. But the real scene-stealers are Gru’s army of chittering-chattering little creatures, the Minions. Jabbering away in their gibberish tongue, they are the only characters who retain the oddball wackiness of the original.
The original Gru had injected fresh blood into the family-friendly animation genre. Oh, despicable me, for wanting more of him and criticising the cuteness of the reformed Gru.
Genre: Family-friendly animation
Directors: Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin
Cast: Voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand
Storyline: Former super-villain Gru — now a reformed, model citizen — goes undercover to save the world.
Bottomline: Clawless but cute romp, designed to please.