Review: Despicable Me 2 / Cert: U / Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud / Screenplay: Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul / Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wig, Benjamin Bratt, Mirando Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan, Elsie Fisher / Released: November 25th
Despicable Me might have been a kid’s movie, but it was also one that understood that it’s best if you entertain the accompanying adults while you’re at it. Obvious, we know, but you’ll be amazed how many forget this basic rule of family filmmaking. But it was also particularly fun if you’re an aficionado of the Bond school of villainy where ridiculous gadgets, shark pools and dastardly-if-slightly- illogical plans are the correct methods of (not actually) achieving world domination. It wasn’t perfect but it was a lot of fun and one of the better family films of recent years. So it was no surprise to see Gru and his minions return with a sequel and what looks like a fully-fledged franchise in the making. But it’s not all-good news.
Having adopted Margo, Dana and Elsie, Gru is now retired from the villainy business and is attempting to break into the jam and jelly market with the help of his old henchman, Dr Nefario. Their efforts are not a success but Gru is soon recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to use his old skills to track down the rascal who stole some PX-41, a mutagen that turns cute creatures into monsters. The film continues to riff off You Only Live Twice (1967) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and as long as it keeps the laughs and spirit of the original, it’s difficult to see where it could fail. Steve Carell (as Gru) is in fine form once more but the minions were the breakout stars of the first movie and the wise decision has been made to put them centre stage, as has the even wiser decision to still not explain what they are and where they came from. All the ingredients are present and correct, so where could it possibly go wrong? Glad you asked.
At risk of turning this review into a geeky pub conversation , we always felt that Gru’s natural enemy would be some kind of arrogant Bond-esque superspy; the perfect foil to Gru’s dismissive villainy. But the original put him up against another supervillain; surely they wouldn’t repeat the same mistake? They do. There is a superspy type from the AVL but she is there as a somewhat unlikely love interest for Gru (as we need something to root for now he’s a loving father) and that’s not quite the same thing. It’d also be reasonable to think they might up the ante a bit for a sequel. He stole the moon in the original and the best they can come up with here is that PX-41 (although it does at least have an amusing effect on those minions). It just all seems a little less imaginative than last time. Even the villain isn’t very convincing: When you think of a supervillain, does a Mexican wrestler spring to mind? No, us neither. Finally, the weakest thing in the original was Russell Brand hopelessly miscast as Dr Nefario. Everyone knows the science-henchmen are German or at least central European; it’s the rules. Needless to say he’s back with that British accent that also manages to remain inexplicably unconvincing when you bear in mind Brand is actually British.
But despite its shortcomings, Despicable Me 2 is still highly entertaining for children of all ages, even grown-up ones. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity but, ironically, the only people who’ll notice are the ones that’ll enjoy it the most.
Extras: Gru's Girls / Gadgets Galore / Audio commentary