If you have been present pretty much anywhere across social media or the internet over the last three years then you will most certainly recognise a ‘minion’ when you see one. These tiny, yellow tic-tac shaped dudes from 2010’s Despicable Me have become a global phenomenon, with their mischievous antics and gibberish chit-chat (with many voiced by directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud). Alongside the admirable character of Gru, a mean criminal mastermind who attempts to steal the moon and little orphans Margo, Edith and Agnes who steal his heart, the film was an all-round hit. Despicable Me 2 exploded into cinemas this year, developing the much-loved characters further and featuring more minion craziness than ever, but does it live up to the original movie?
A reformed character, not so despicable Gru (Steve Carell) has adapted to the role of doting adoptive father to his three ‘gurlz,’ forced to endure the attentions of excitable single mothers and dedicating his former underground crime lab to the production of jams and jellies – which is not going well. Enter Lucy (Kristen Wiig – voice of Miss Hattie in the first movie), representative of the Anti-Villain League secret agency. With the help of her lipstick taser she captures Gru (and inadvertently a couple of minions) so AVL big boss Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) can persuade him to assist in their quest to identify a super villain who has stolen an experimental serum contained in an arctic laboratory. Reluctant Gru finally agrees after his science guru Dr Nefario (Russell Brand) moves on to evil pastures new and he realises that he too misses the adrenaline and adventure of his former life of villainy. Teamed with Lucy he sets up base in the local shopping mall to investigate, with all neighbouring proprietors under suspicion. Meanwhile, eldest daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) is being seduced by the suave son of a Mexican restaurateur and the minions are rapidly decreasing in number as someone or something is kidnapping them. With Gru struggling with single parenthood and his new feelings for sidekick Lucy, can they find the perpetrator in time and locate the lost minions?
The return of most of the original characters cannot go far wrong as they are each hilarious and loveable in equal measure, with every little trait worked out to a tee. Our villain (whom cannot be disclosed) does not quite live up to the nerdy villainy of cookie-lover, Vector (Jason Segel) from the original film but he/she does the job. Lucy however is the perfect blend of goofiness and girl power in impossibly tall heels. She is the perfect geeky match for outsider Gru as we see more flashback sequences of him being alienated in the playground when he was a boy but you can’t help but miss his mean side.
The original Despicable Me plot was short, sharp and heart-warming. Whilst there is plenty of warmth in the sequel, this time it seems a little too concise for the younger viewer. The number of sub-plots becomes overwhelming: the Gru and Lucy love story, the disappearing minions, Dr Nefario’s departure, the search for the super villain, Margo’s coming of age. Each plot is stretched out a little too much, with the shopping mall investigation in particular taking a while to get going. Kids may just lose interest were it not for the ongoing promise of more minion antics in the next scenes. Let’s face it, the majority of kids and adults alike are watching this one for the minions. What slapstick will they get up to next? What hilarious food-based wording will pop up in their odd little language? What happens if they turn bad? We get to see more of the minions taking every pleasure in the simple things in life: household chores, music, golf, toilet humour and indulging in their favourite treat ‘gelato,’ slurping ice-lollies and lazing around gorging on ice-cream. So, just as the teaser trailers promised (who can forget the Banana Potato song), there is an abundance of minion capers, including a hilarious musical number near the end. Even the credits hint at the upcoming Minions movie set for release in December 2014.
With more of the cute and less of the evil, Despicable Me 2 does lose the quirky simplicity of the first movie, but it more than makes up for this with the best of characters and plenty of minion madness – a definite DVD for this year’s Christmas stocking.