With a few obvious exceptions, such as The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather 2, sequels rarely match or surpass the original film from which they have spawned, however Despicable Me 2 certainly goes close. This follow-up to the excellent and hugely successful Despicable Me maintains all of the charm of the original. Furthermore, the animation once again looks fantastic, which we kind of expect these days with the increasing competition amongst the studios for a share of the animation market.
At the beginning of the film we find former super villain Gru now living in domestic bliss with the three girls he inadvertently adopted in the first film, having given up his criminal ways to now focus on producing a range of jellies. However, looking to draw on his knowledge of the criminal underworld, the Anti-Villain League (AVL) recruits Gru to help locate the person responsible for the theft of a research facility. Teaming up with AVL agent Lucy Wilde, Gru sets out on his mission, installing himself as a shop owner in the mall from which the AVL believes the thief is operating. All the while fending off the advances of a smitten Lucy, Gru struggles to balance his new mission with his familial responsibilities.
As was the case in the first film, it is Gru’s army of Minions who provide much of the humour, their frenetic, unintelligible banter and slapstick physicality works a treat and complements the broader narrative. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, who also worked together on the first film, have incorporated a number of pop culture references and parodied the spy genre to great effect. With Gru also having to deal with oldest daughter Margo’s first romance and the defection of his sidekick Dr Nefario, there is plenty going on in this film to please kids and adults alike.
The most impressive aspect of the voice casting is that the big name actors used for the main roles are not instantly recognisable and this removes the distraction that can often ruin animated films. Steve Carrell does a great job as Gru, while Kristen Wiig, who played a different character in the first film, lends her voice to Lucy on this occasion. British duo Russell Brand and Steve Coogan play Dr Nefario and AVL head honcho Silas Ramsbottom respectively, with Benjamin Bratt replacing Al Pacino as the voice of Mexican villain-cum-restaurant owner El Macho/Eduardo. Miranda Cosgrove returns as Margo, the oldest of Gru’s three daughters, alongside Dana Gaier as the tomboyish Edith and Elsie Fisher as Agnes.
Whilst this film can’t match the originality of the first film simply because we have met most of the characters already, Coffin and Renaud have remained true to the frenetic slapstick vibe. There is no cohesive story and not a lot of dramatic tension either because Gru identifies the villain very early in the piece and the romance only ever has one possible outcome but, despite this, the film is genuinely funny, smart and action-packed without ever being overly violent. Ultimately, Despicable Me 2 is that rare sequel that very nearly outshines its predecessor.