Pulling off a sequel to Despicable Me, in which the evil genius Gru (Steve Carell) steals the moon from the sky before succumbing to the sweetness of the three little girls he adopts, is a hard proposition. What fun could Gru possibly be if he’s now relegated to throwing princess-themed birthday parties and supervising his teenager’s use of the cell phone? As Gru’s right-hand man, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), opines, there’s nothing quite like the good old days; indeed, so much is the past missed that the scientist parts ways with his longtime employer in order to engage in some good old-fashioned skullduggery.
The makers of Despicable Me 2—writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul along with co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud—seem to have made a conscious decision to forego the past and forge a slightly new direction for Gru and company. And for the most part, it works. Gru’s current nightmares are of the parenting and family-balance kind—surely, we all can relate. Throw into this familiar muck the fact that he’s oddly enchanted by Secret Agent Lucy (Kristin Wiig), whose employer, the Anti-Villain League, seeks Gru’s assistance in discovering who has taken hold of a dangerous and top-secret ingredient. While the solution to that mystery could just serve as an excuse to trot out a nifty series of secret weapons and high-tech gadgets, it really provides the underbelly for the quirky romance at this movie’s heart.
The Minions are once again on hand to provide their quasi-adorable/weird slapstick, and in this case, they are central to machinations of the evil genius who may or may not be El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), one of Gru’s presumed dead nemeses. There is a cute subplot involving Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) and her flirtation with El Macho’s nephew, and Gru’s attempts to sabotage puppy love. The movie zips along at lightning speed, providing inventive design and witty dialogue, interspersed with the occasional, inevitable, fart joke. Despicable Me 2 suffers slightly from Gru’s softening heart, but it still is a solid delight for audiences not averse to a little tartness with their sugar.