Outside of the Shrek and Toy Story franchise (and maybe a few others), sequels to animated films have generally been suckier versions of their predecessors. The 2010 hit Despicable Me was never not going to have a successor after such high box office returns, but fuelling a sequel purely on profit is a common but bad sign - thankfully this anticipated sequel still has a unique appeal of its own to justify its existence.
Former villain Gru (Steve Carell) has since abandoned his despicable antics to become a devoted father to his three girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). He is soon pulled out of his repetitive life, however, when agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) of the Anti-Villain League recruits him under the orders of Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the leader of the organization, in order to bring an end to the sinister plots of a secretive villain who only Gru can understand and consequently defeat.
Funny as Gru's Minions are, you can't fuel an entire movie out of their incoherent babble. Thus, you need a premise to justify the return of these characters, and the concept as a whole is reasonably solid if flawed. Gru doesn't return to any evil antics and the film never feels like a dull rehash of its predecessor; instead, Gru is constantly a good guy, having reformed from his devious lifestyle to focus on fatherhood and a new direction for his life. The film tries to explore the conflict this generates with his family, but this often fails to get off the ground and leaves us a bit underwhelmed. That's not the only instance where things are abruptly dropped, however; the script leaves much to be desired at times, with so many plot holes, inconsistencies and unanswered questions that it doesn't feel particularly polished.
But it's still easy to appreciate the film for what it is: a comedy. And it delivers at a constant pace, providing plenty of hilarious gags and witty remarks throughout the story and creating many comical scenarios for the Minions to shine. Their appeal is milked far too much and towards the end they stop being funny, but the film seldom falls back on them to force laughter from the audience. The characters all exude plenty of charm, with newcomer Kristen Wiig bringing a jubilant appeal to Lucy Wilde and Carell continuing his top notch portrayal of the loveable Gru. Her romance with Gru is as trashy as any animated love story, but it works and is a nice change from the conventions of the original film.
Despicable Me wasn't exactly the pinnacle of animated filmmaking; yeah, it was great, but in a narrative sense it wasn't the most deep or complex film ever made. While that's certainly not bad, it's hard to deny that the sequel fails to develop a story that at least tries to go the extra mile; the villain is weak, the plot holes aren't very forgivable and the film relies on its comical appeal far too much. It's clearly a kids film above all and doesn't try to alter this fact, but it remains a fun and gorgeously animated fare that wil still put a smile on everyone's face.
Wait, they actually are making a Minions movie? Well, shit.