You could be forgiven for thinking, if you hadn’t seen the first Despicable Me (2010), that the subtler nuances of Despicable Me 2 (2013) might be lost on you. Well worry not. This animated follow-up from directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, featuring the voice talents of Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Russell Brand, makes little pretence at delicacy, going instead for a hyper-slapstick comedy laced with nostalgic wit, which should appeal to younger and older audiences alike. Gru (Carell), the evil supervillain, has put his old ways behind him and now devotes his life to looking after his three adopted daughters.
You can never erase your past completely, however, and when a secret Arctic laboratory is stolen, the AVL (Anti-Villain League) knows there’s only one man who can get to the bottom of the mystery. In the world of cinema there are two types of animation. Firstly there are those aimed purely at kids whose appeal, if honest, is likely to be somewhat limited. You then have those whose makers have learnt the secret of longevity for film animation – to make a movie which caters both to kids and the adults who will inevitably be forced to sit through it with them, for the umpteenth time on a rainy afternoon. Thankfully, the joyful Despicable Me 2 comfortably falls within the second category, far exceeding its inconsistent forebear.
This is a film whose characters, including the lovable, yellow Minions and Gru’s adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Agnes (Elsie Fisher) and Edith (Dana Gaier), will appeal to kids as they face endless crazy situations as well as the pitfalls of growing up. For adult viewers, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have created a pastiche of James Bond, with nods towards Scaramanga’s airborne car in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) to the underwater Lotus from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), as well as the inevitability of two secret agents falling in love before the film’s finale. The unashamed candour with which the archetypal super-spy is referenced simply lends Despicable Me 2’s vibrant world a sense of reality which lifts it above the usual cartoon tomfoolery.