Toy Story took three goes before it arrived at its beautiful and timeless masterpiece, so all is not yet lost for the Despicable Me franchise. Given that it is not coming in the wake of an especially striking original, this sequel is a huge improvement on its precursor. The more memorable animated movies are heavily reliant on allegory for their success (viz Toy Story 3) and, in turn, allegory is largely dependent upon cliché – if you do not immediately recognise the ‘type’ being drawn you won’t get the joke and, in all likelihood, you will miss the message.
A considerably softer Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), in the same dark outfit with pointy-toed boots, is now happily ensconced in suburbia, making jams and even dressing in drag for the birthday party of one of his three little orphaned girls. With his shady past, however, he is an obvious recruitment target for the Anti-Villain League to help them identify which of the lease-holders in a local mall is the super-crim who has stolen a fearful transformative potion that will make attainable his wicked goal of world domination.
There is plenty of slapstick, supplied mostly by Gru’s weird, gibberish-speaking yellow minions, witty throwaway lines in the adults’ dialogue and classic James Bond bravado in the action sequences. The prime suspect is Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who, as a fat Mexican restaurateur with a Zapata moustache, is a caricature to beat them all. He and his wobbly belly have some terrific moments, but the scenes that give the story its cheesy but irresistible allure are those that involve Lucy (Kristin Wiig), Gru’s fellow spy. Together, their relationship grows in a manner similar to Maxwell Smart and 99’s – Carell, who has played Max, often seems to be channelling the hapless agent. That Gru should fall in love would have been inconceivable after DM1, but Lucy is so utterly adorable and funny that the romance soon becomes the movie’s central focus.
Good, without attaining the gold standard of a Rango.