Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Steve Coogan, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong, Russell Brand
Running time: 98 mins
The lowdown: Steve Carell’s reformed supervillain returns with minions and triumvirate of cute moppets in tow for a riotous sequel to the surprise 2010 hit. What plot there is revolves around Gru’s investigation into the theft of an experimental serum that transforms animals (and people, and minions) into ravenous, psychotic (purple-furred) beasties. But, as with producer Chris Meladandri’s Ice Age series, the story is a mere launch pad for inventive comic skits guaranteed to tickle your inner minion. Kristen Wiig returns (voicing a different character) along with Russell Brand as a long-in-the-tooth scientist, joined by newcomers Steve Coogan and Benjamin Bratt.
The full verdict: We’re currently living through a golden age of Hollywood animation. A couple of Cars related stalls aside, Pixar guarantees flawlessly engineered family entertainment. Wreck-It-Ralph and Frankenweenie prove Disney animation aims for the quality of its subsidiary in imagination smarts.
The undervalued ParaNorman was one of 2012’s best films hands down.
And the Looney Tunes legacy seems in good hands with producer Chris Meladandri, the guy who kick-started Ice Age and now Despicable Me (we’ll not mention The Lorax).
Despicable Me 2 stays true to the Meladandri formula of constant movement, constant noise and constant adrenalin. But, where the first one faltered in having to introduce the Peter Lorre-a-like Gru as a character, the sequel can just have fun with the set-ups, including not one but two cases of shark assisted volcano diving.
Grabbing bits of pop culture like a supermarket trolley dash, 60s spy capers The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and Get Smart (which also received the Carell treatment) are suitably pillaged for numerous action set-pieces. Among these are a spectacular giant magnet assisted anti-gravity opening and Gru’s trip to the submarine base of the Anti-Villain League, courtesy of a submarine car (which also has airplane capability).
Sitcom set-ups are delivered via Gru’s reluctant acceptance to assist the AVL discover who nabbed the purple monster formula, joined by Agent Wilde (Wiig), a livewire with a black belt in mixed martial arts (and krumping). Tracking the formula down to a local mall, the duo must discover if salsa king Eduardo (Bratt, replacing both Javier Bardem and Al Pacino) or wig-guru Floyd (Jeong) are the nefarious ne’er-do-wells, all under the disapproving gaze of AVL boss Silas Ramsbottom (Coogan).
Action and laughs arrive thick and fast (a bad blind-date is a particular hoot), but most impressive is just how much is happening at any one time. With minions and Gru’s three adopted younglings providing constant incidental and background chuckles when not hogging centre screen, Despicable Me 2 is Road Runner by way of Airplane!.
This and a healthy dollop of good-naturedness are what will reward repeat viewing. Plus the astonishing detail in the animation; from the background mall shops to the weave on Gru’s jacket and the purple fur of an evil bunny, Despicable Me 2 is a visual feast.
With this almost certainly a bulletproof hit, sequels are a given. Meaning madcap animation may have found its very own 007.