It seems sequels are taking over the summer, even animated ones. 2010’s Despicable Me gave us super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) who, to further his latest evil plan of stealing the moon, adopted three young girls only to discover he was far better at being a father than a career criminal. Despicable Me 2 takes place with Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), and Edith (Dana Gaier) firmly entrenched in Gru’s home and heart and his countless minions working on his latest enterprise (a less than delicious brand of jams and jellies) when an agent from AVL (The Anti-Villain League) approaches the former super-villain about coming to work for them.
Despite his initial reluctance, Gru accepts the invitation to work alongside Agent Lucy Wild (Kristen Wiig) and search for the super-villain hiding out at the local mall while experimenting with a dangerous stolen chemical that can turn those effected in monstrous killing machines.
From beginning to end Despicable Me 2 is just plain fun. Gru is forced to balance his new job, his adopted daughters constant prodding for him to find a wife, and his overprotective reaction to Margo falling for the son (Moises Arias) of a former criminal turned Mexican restaurant owner (Benjamin Bratt). The last is particularly troubling for Gru who tries to use his new position with AVL to have both father and son arrested and detained merely to keep Margo away her new friend.
Carell, Cosgrove, Fisher, and Gaier don’t miss a beat as all fall naturally back into the characters they first breathed life into three years ago. Wiig’s addition and sense of humor fits the tone of the movie perfectly, even if it is a bit too easy to guess what will happen between Gru and Lucy. Russell Brand also returns as evil scientist Dr. Nefario, and the the original film’s break-out stars, the minions, are given tons to do in the sequel (including stealing scenes from their co-stars and each other in so many memorable ways which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling here).
You certainly don’t need to see Despicable Me 2 in 3D to enjoy the film, but if you can find a 3D screening I would heartily recommend it. Mostly of the time 3D is used as a gimmick rather than for added effect, but that’s not the case here. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and their merry band of animating minions make terrific (and clever) use of 3D to help tell the story and provide several fun visuals as well. These effects, and the minions’ insanity, continue throughout the credits.
Although I enjoyed Cars 2 more than some, Despicable Me 2 provides the kind of thoroughly enjoyable animated spy-thriller that Pixar wasn’t quite able to deliver. That, plus Pixar’s latest unmemorable sequel makes it seem that the the animation giant may be slipping at a time when several other animated studios are starting to produce their best work.
Despicable Me 2 is a rarity. It’s a movie whose sequel is better than the original. Fans of the first film should be overjoyed with the sequel that never runs out of manic energy while still staying true to the heart of the franchise (the relationship between the former super-villain and his three young daughters). There are several nice nods, both large and small, for fans of the original film to enjoy, the most obvious being Agnes’ continued love of unicorns and more of the hilarious but heartbreaking flashbacks to Gru’s childhood.