In 2010, Despicable Me was a surprise animation hit, which naturally leads to a sequel. And while Despicable Me 2 does not reach the levels the first one did, it is still a solid family film that everyone should enjoy. Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand and Steve Coogan, this film sees Gru return as a spy to help the Anti-Villain League catch a super villain, with the help of his minions. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

It’s hard to be critical of a film like this. On one hand, the first movie had a much more original story. On the other, the sequel ramps up the jokes with more minions and extreme scenes. Kids probably won’t notice the difference and once the movie gets going, it’s easy to just relax and enjoy seeing these characters again.

The first film was very much a family movie. This one still is, but could also fall under both the romantic-comedy or spy genres. I’m sure kids will enjoy all the sappy love thrown into this one, with Gru and Margo discovering love. At the same time, the treat is much more personal while also less clear as the minions are kidnapped by a world-famous supervillian. Both story lines compete with each other for most of the movie and while it isn’t a smooth ride, it leads to a good payoff.

The romantic story line is especially interesting. It is a hard-hitting theme and it is everywhere in this movie. Almost all the background characters in the mall or at a party are couples, holding each other in very romantic ways. Almost right from the beginning, Nasim Pedrad’s Jillian tries to set Gru up with women, easily foreshadowing the ending. But they also explore young love with Cosgrove’s Margo dating on the good-looking Antonio. For a kids movie, I think it might have been too much, but as a way to continue Gru’s growth, they couldn’t have picked a better angle.

Steve Carell really likes the Gru character and returns as the lovable bad guy with a force. Just check out this stunt on Ellen.

Carell provides some great laughs throughout, but also changes the tone of his voice when scared or angry. It isn’t easy to be a voice-actor when you are standing behind a microphone, but Carell has that skill. The character still grows and has to be one of the best written villains/ heroes in animation today.

One thing I really enjoyed was the many call backs to the original. They aren’t forced but it’s clear directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud listened to fans and kept their most popular moments. Fluffy the Stuffed Unicorn is here, along with a slow-moving Dr. Nefarious and the freeze-ray. It’s small but something I noticed and enjoyed.

The three girls are all back and now that they have a Dad, they are more confident and have clearer personalities. Margo has a cellphone and a boyfriend and Edith has weapons and is grossed out by love. But it’s little Agnes that is the star again, with extremely cute lines and big eyes like before. Fans of the girls from the first movie will be satisfied with where they go in the sequel.

Benjamin Bratt came in late to replace Al Paccino as the villain only six weeks before the films permeate but I didn’t notice anything different. He may have recorded his role quick, but it’s still very creepy and funny, which is for the best. As a villain, El Macho is weaker than Jason Segel’s Vector (I don’t really remember what his goal is) but he does get an amazing introduction that might have been the funniest scene not involving minions.

Speaking of minions, they are back in full force. Anyone who saw the first film knows, the minions are the stars and I am just going to highlight a couple of my favourite jokes. Easily my favourite creative choice in this movie is that Gru knows each minion’s name. Dave, Fred, Jeff and many more are easily identified even though they all look the same. I also enjoyed a scene where they are partying, eating ice cream but acting like they were drunk. This only graces the surface of the minion jokes but I laughed many times when they were on-screen and you will too.

However, even more of a star than the minions is Kristen Wiig’s Lucy. Wiig actually played the owner of the orphanage in the first film but here she gets a much stronger, funnier and important role. Lucy is a kick-ass spy who teams with Gru to catch the villain. She steals every scene with quick one-liners and quirky movements that I was pleasantly surprised to see. I expected the character to simply become a damsel in distress and while that happens, it isn’t a conventional trope which fit the character. While the minions had more memorable lines and gags, Lucy is the strongest character in this movie and I was glad to see her get a happy ending.

While not as ground-breaking as the first film, there isn’t much not to like in Despicable Me 2. Everything people liked in the original are back and the additions mostly add to the franchise. Like the best animated movies from Disney, this movie has things kids and adults will enjoyed and for that reason, I highly recommend it.

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