Review: Despicable Me 2
The night before I took my eight-and-five-year-old sons to see Despicable Me 2 we watched its predecessor (for the fifth time) on DVD.
It's the story of the planet's baddest super-villain, Gru. Assisted by his hilarious army of snickering weebly-wobbly bright yellow Minions, his cunning plan is to steal the moon and hold the world to ransom - only for his plan to be foiled by an even more dastardly villain than himself.
No, not a skinny arch-rival called Vector – but his love and sense of responsibility for three little orphan girls.
Despicable Me was such a brilliant film on so many levels I wondered if it could be matched, let alone topped, by its successor. But we weren't disappointed.
Despicable Me 2 picks up where the first left off. Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) and the girls have settled down into a routine of domestic contentment, with the girls starring in school plays and Gru and the Minions running a homely business making jelly.
But Gru's services are called on by the equivalent of James Bond's 'M' when a mutant-making liquid is stolen in a jaw-dropping opening scene which sees a gigantic magnet suck up a whole Arctic research base.
Gru has enough on his plate, what with raising three adopted girls, but he is eventually cajoled into taking up the challenge by flirty special agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig).
Reluctantly, Gru partners up with Lucy to try to track down the perpetrator when he realises the villain is an old contemporary from his evil past – El Macho – who had faked his own death by strapping himself, 200lbs of dynamite and a shark to a rocket and flying it into an active volcano.
Deaths – even fake ones - just don't come any more macho than that! El Macho is in possession of the liquid that turns kittens into snarling monsters and won't stop until he has conquered the world.
I won't spoil the rest of the movie for you, but as with Despicable Me, this is a film with a big, warm heart, with an underlying message that love and family are much more important than conquering worlds, stealing Moons and practising evil.
At the centre of it is the motivation of Gru: the little shy boy, who could never impress his cantankerous mum, who was teased and tormented at school for the way he looked, and who only found a sense of belonging and control by become a master criminal.
It is his three adorable adopted girls, Margo, Edith and Agnes, who saved him in the first Despicable Me, so will they save him this time? Is being a great dad better than being an evil genius? Or does Gru need something more?
But aside from the morality tales – never cloying, no matter how obvious – the show-stealers of Despicable Me 2 are without a shadow of a doubt, Gru's hundres of Minions. Their tasks involve everything from babysitting to housework to jam-making – but their main role is to just be plain, out-and-out slapstick silly.
Some minions have two eyes, some only one, but they all enjoyed silly verbal jokes and playing pranks on each other.
They reminded me of bright yellow, pocket-sized versions of my sons and their mates: constantly taking the mickey out of each other, pointing and sniggering, laughing at raspberry-blowing and fart innuendos.
When the head of the secret services announces himself as 'Ramsbottom', two minions shoot each other sideways glances and chortle: 'Bottom!!!'. Despicably daft!
• Despicable Me 2 is at cinemas now, on both 2D and 3D.