Despicable Me 2
Director: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud.
Cast: (voices of) Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan.
SEQUELS are difficult beasts, and ones that live up to their predecessor are elusive creatures indeed.
Fail to recapture the magic, and it will be a disappointment. Change too much, and people will be disappointed. Make it too similar to the original, and, yep, you guessed... disappointing.
That's why Despicable Me 2 is such a relief. This is a sequel done right.
Having accepted the role and responsibilities of fatherhood by the end of the first film, former supervillain Gru (Carell) is semi-retired at the start of the second.
He still has his little yellow minions at work in his secret lair, but know they're busy putting on birthday parties for Gru's adopted daughters and trying to perfect jam recipes rather than working on evil schemes.
But Gru's stay-at-home-dad days are disturbed by Agent Wilde (Wiig) and the Anti-Villain League, who believe Gru's skills could help them track down the thief who stole a secret serum that turns any lifeform into an indestructable killing machine.
The success of the sequel can be put down to screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, who understand why the first film worked. Putting a supervillain in uncomfortable social situations wasn't necessarily original even in the first film, but it's done so well again in the sequel that it doesn't matter.
Dressing Gru up as children's entertainment is kind of funny, but it's even funnier seeing him repel a matchmaking friend with a hose, or struggle through a first date in a terrible wig.
The relentless barrage of sight gags and slapstick is the other key factor in Despicable Me 2's success. With Gru's never-ending supply of minions serving as an army of Stooges, there is no shortage of visual humour that's somehow made even funnier by their bizarre nonsense language.
It's this broad comedy style that makes this a hit for all ages. It's not simple, dumbed-down gags - it's perfectly timed pratfalls that will have the parents laughing just as much as the kids.
The minions and Gru help this recapture that original magic. Gru's predicament has changed and his character has evolved, so it doesn't feel like a retread - more of a natural progression. Introducing a romantic angle - not just for Gru but also for his eldest daughter Margo - also keeps things fresh.
It's not perfect. Margo's romance is brushed aside and never resolved in favour of the big action finale, and Gru's sidekick Dr Nefario (Brand) remains one of the most wasted, useless and unfunny characters in any big budget CG film.
But for a family-friendly laugh riot during the school holidays, look no further.
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