A top secret base at the Arctic Circle has come under attack when a huge magnet hovered down from the sky and picked it up to steal it, sending the staff and guards flying, or more accurately, dropping. Who could be behind this and what is their overall plan? It’s safe to say that whatever it is, it’s nothing to do with former villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who has given up the bad life for a far more benevolent one, living quietly with his three adopted daughters he had gathered as part of a previous scam but is now devoted to. However, he still has the skills and experience in villainy to be of use to the authorities, and they want to speak to him: can Gru truly turn hero and track down the next big thing in global evil?
Despicable Me was a surprise smash, an unashamedly daft and warm hearted cartoon telling the story of your typical James Bond adversary on their side, though the fact that he was fully reformed by the end of it would seem to have put the kibosh on any further adventures in that vein. But just as Jaws turned into a goodie at the end of Moonraker, Gru committed to heroism with the same dedication as his former moon-coveting personality did to wickedness. It should have meant the character was watered down and of less interest, yet if anything this newfound benevolence made him even more popular, this sequel becoming one of the biggest animated movies of its age, and leading on to what was to become the nearly most successful cartoon ever behind Disney’s Frozen.
That was Minions, and though these numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation or take into account precisely how many of the world’s population had actually seen it, you could make an educated guess that this franchise was a pretty darn big hit. Back at part 2, directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin (who voiced those Minions themselves) had a continuation of a theme they had established from part 1 they wished to convey, which was why Gru this time around won himself the heart of a fair maiden. Not that this was going to be an easy goal, if anything it was tougher than capturing the moon or, as his mission was this time, stopping a returning supervillain from kidnapping his Minions and transforming them into indestructible monsters.
Not that he notices this until the movie is well into its second half, but he is distracted, first by one of the girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), developing an interest in getting a boyfriend which agitates her guardian, and then by him developing an interest in the agent who has been assigned to assist him in the mission, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), which is reciprocated. The message was clear, it wasn’t simply a plot convenience that Gru was on the side of the good guys now, it was part of what being loved did for him. Add a little love to your life, according to this, and you will feel a lot more worthwhile – as Dean Martin once sang, you’re nobody till somebody loves you, which didn’t show up on the soundtrack to this but might as well have.
What was there was Pharrell Williams’ tunes, and that included the song that was impossible to escape in the summer of 2013, and indeed for some time after, Happy which accompanies Gru’s cheery stroll through town, which may make you nostalgic for that time when it was so ubiquitous, or may want to make you mute the sound when that bit happens, should you be utterly sick of it still. What nobody seemed sick of were those little yellow, dungareed chaps the Minions, still gabbling away in high pitched mangling of a host of languages and probably for most audiences stealing the show from under the bigger names in the voice cast (which at one point included Al Pacino until he left the project to be replaced by Benjamin Bratt). With their relentlessly upbeat state of mind, giggling away at every opportunity, they were as disarming as the rest of Despicable Me 2, which may not have been operating at Pixar or Ghibli levels of excellence, but were very good at what they did, and struck the worldwide public’s funny bone with admirable accuracy.