DESPICABLE ME 2 (U) THE original 2010 Despicable Me animation cast Steve Carell firmly as the voice of the bad guy, Gru. Now, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 (1991), this full-powered sequel turns the central character on his head.
The switch freshens up the premise and means you don't need to have seen the original.
The ace up the new film's sleeve is the return of Gru's diminutive yellow Minion sidekicks (voiced by the directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) whose first-movie appeal was so overlooked they weren't even merchandised.
This time they are firmly embedded in the main plot, almost elbowing Gru and his girls into the shadows, plus there's the introduction of a new hybrid of Minion.
With a spin-off movie called Minions out in December 2014, they could end up ruling their own country - The DoMinion Republic!
Having come to realise the innocence of three orphans was changing him in unexpected ways during the first film, Gru has turned his back on skulduggery.
He's now living so happily with his girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) that he's even making jams and jellies under the supervision of the returning technical genius Dr Nefario (Russell Brand).
A threat to global peace sees the year's best film tagline kicking in: 'When the world needed a hero, they called a villain'.
Working for the Anti-Villain League led by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) stuns Gru with her lipstick taser and pressgangs him into helping them investigate the theft of a top secret serum by the kind of bad guys he must understand so well.
The trail leads to a local mall where Gru and Lucy use a cupcake shop to spy on their prime suspects - wig-store owning Floyd (Ken Jeong) and Mexican restaurant boss Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt).
The sometimes over-complicated story is patchy and the villain is underused, but there's an old-fashioned, Loony Tunes-style emphasis on fun.
Some unexpectedly lovely moments include Gru putting to bed one of his young adopted daughters who studies his bald head and imagines chicks hatching.
Such life-affirming 'out of the mouths of babes' moments make movies memorable, prompting Carell to improvise Gru's response to the child: 'Never get older'.
Opinions will be split as to whether this 98-minute sequel is 'better' than the highly original first movie.
But the marvellous Minions will keep viewers of all ages chuckling and there's plenty of action, including an early car- towing sequence which somehow blends James Bond excitement with the uplifting nature of Pixar's Up.
At last weekend's public preview screenings, a friend particularly enjoyed the Minions making the most of the end credits in attention-grabbing 3D, while I'd appreciated the overall extra brightness of the film's colours in 2D - glasses-free and cheaper, too.
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