My friends and I have a long standing joke (pilfered from elsewhere) about not seeing sequels if we’ve not seen the originals for fear of not understanding the film. It is always applied to ridiculous fare such as the Fast & Furious movies where no historic knowledge is necessary. I know, what a witty bunch we are. That brings me to Despicable Me 2. I had not seen the original, but that didn’t seem like an issue, especially after hearing a couple of glowing reviews. However, in retrospect, I think it might have a problem. Not with understanding the story – that was fine – but in terms of love and respect for the characters. Part of the journey of the film for me was learning why I should care about Gru (Steve Carell), his three adoptive daughters and the masses of yellow minions (who are styled on the insides of Kinder Eggs, so it seems), while everyone else was already well briefed on that side of things so could settle down and enjoy. And enjoy it I ultimately did, though not to the degree I had hoped I might.
The story finds Gru recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to hunt down a villain who has stolen a mutagen, which mutates living organisms into evil, aggressive monsters, as well as taking the laboratory where the mutagen was developed. The AVL has tracked down traces of the mutagen to a shopping mall and sends Gru in alongside an AVL agent, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig).
The story is all pretty simple and straghtforward, pulling no surprises but being told in an amusing enough manner, but it’s really only the end sequence that elevates the film out of the middle ground of ‘a pleasant way to pass the time’ and towards the upper echelon of animated movies, of which there have been so many excellent examples in the last 20 years. Ultimately, Despicable Me 2 doesn’t have the depth of many of the Pixar films and with it, it loses some of the adult appeal, but you can pretty much guarantee it will be a sure-fire favourite with the younger members of the audience.