When creating a sequel to an animated movie, the normal method is to just take what made the first one great and repeat it. However, If the first one was a really solid, surprisingly entertaining, movie, that might make the follow up a little harder. Sure, the kids will still love it if you keep key ingredients in place, but adults need more. With the sequel for Despicable Me, that was the case as the ingredients could easily be replicated in the sequel, but the story needed some tweaks to keep it fresh. Luckily, Despicable Me 2 was able to make those tweaks and create a movie that may not be as great as the original, but keeps it more entertaining than most animated sequels.
Of course, in the first movie, the entire lure was that a master criminal named Gru wanted to prove that he was the greatest criminal in the world. When a newcomer was able to steal a great pyramid, Gru knew he needed to go one better and chose to steal the moon. To do this, he enlisted the unsuspecting aid of three orphaned girls to help him steal a shrink ray to accomplish this. Along the way, he fell for the three little girls and went from being a criminal to being a father. It was a great story, and a surprisingly wonderful little animated movie that no one saw coming.
With Despicable Me 2, the story had to change. Gru was no longer a criminal, and was now simply serving his duty as a dad to the three girls. Instead of using his minions (wonderful little yellow Tater Tot looking creatures) to build his criminal empire, they were now building their new jelly and jam company. Things looked to be going well until an overeager agent showed up representing a super villain fighting task force and asked Gru for his help.
So, the franchise went from Gru trying to be a master criminal to Gru becoming an actual hero and force for good. And, thankfully, it went without a hitch while keeping the same dynamics that made the first movie so fun. Instead of Gru realizing he loved the three girls and choosing them over crime, he now has the love interest he has to realize is there waiting for him and change into a hero for her.
Along the way, Gru has to go undercover in a shopping mall to find the master criminal who wants to use a serum that turns even the most docile of creatures into ravenous monsters to help him take over the world. His suspects include a small Asian man who runs a wig shop and a large Latino man who owns a restaurant. He also has to battle to keep his oldest adopted daughter from falling for a lothario at the mall while also fighting off blind dates from a neighboring busybody.
Of course, what makes the entire movie great is the relationship between Gru and those around him, and in this movie it is just as strong as it was in the original. The three little girls are still distinctly unique characters, the oldest just starting to notice boys, the middle still a tomboy who thinks that is gross, and the youngest still the cutest little thing in animated movies. And, it would be wrong not to mention the Minions.
Too many people consider the Minions to be made simply for the purpose of selling toys. That may be so, but that has nothing to do with anything when it comes to the movie. They are still little, mischievous creatures, not too much unlike Gremlins. As a matter of fact, the comparison to Gremlins is very accurate in this movie after a plot point halfway through the movie changes them. However, through it all, while those who have never seen the movies will just see them as little yellow plush toys, they each have distinct personalities and remain incredibly fun characters that only the most jaded could hate.
At the end of the day, Despicable Me 2 is not as good as the first. The freshness is gone, but this movie does a lot to keep the situations unique from that first movie and it remains a very fun movie the second time around. A Minions solo movie is coming next year, and I am not sure about that one because Gru and the girls are so important to the quality of the story, but for now the franchise is still alive and strong. Forget The Lone Ranger on the Fourth of July weekend and go see Despicable Me 2.