Previously on Despicable Me … Supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) traded in his badge of dishonour to adopt three adorable moppets. He also attempted to steal the moon, but that’s OK because he put it back afterwards.
Despicable Me 2 finds him happily ensconced in malevolence-free bliss, hosting balloon-strewn birthday parties, dressing up as the ugliest fairy princess you’ve ever seen and setting up his own jelly-making industry. Oh, and he’s falling head over pointed nose in love with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), the spunky Anti-Villain League agent who needs his help.
There’s a lot rammed into this soapy sequel to Universal’s surprise 2010 hit. Where that film zapped superhero flicks with a convention-flipping ‘subversion ray’ to LOL-some effect, DM2 is about as straightforward as they come. As Gru goes undercover at a mall in search of an evil scientist who’s concocted a monster-making serum, there’s nary a hint of his former wicked humour, fatherhood seemingly having dulled his penchant for anarchy.
But who are we kidding? The real stars of the Despicable Me series are, of course, Gru’s sweetcorn-shaped minions (Kevin, Stuart et al). Infantile, indestructible, impossible to keep a straight face around, they’re deployed in full force here as gag Polyfilla. They’re as dependable as Ice Age ’s Scrat when it comes to inflating pancake-flat scenes and by the time the climax rolls around, they’ve become the focus of an increasingly scattershot plot that’s part parenthood lecture, part romantic comedy.
Between a crackpot scheme to explode a volcano (we’re still not sure why), too many mall scenes, and its insistence on turning Gru’s lovably unlikely brood into a nuclear family, DM2 is a pale imitation of its fresh and frisky predecessor.
If you’ve come for the sidekicks, though, you’ll be reminded that good things come in small packages.