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Critics cheer 'Despicable Me 2"

Marjie Lambert

'A GAG-FILLED DELIGHT'

By Roger Moore

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

“Despicable Me 2” is a gag-filled delight from start-to-finish. It’s got more laughs in its first five minutes — from its larynx-bending voice actors, its loopy. goofy, design and its milling, mewling Minions — than “Monsters University” managed over its entire length.

And if much of the message, the warmth and the “changed villain” character arc of the original film is missing, the giggles and laughs make up for it.

Sort of a “How Gru got his Groove Back,” this farce sees our former Evil Genius living the straight life, out of diabolical plots and raising the three “leeeeeetle goils” who melted his wicked heart in the first film. His life is all about making sure the bouncy house and balloons are inflated and that a fairy princess shows up at his youngest’s birthday party.

Gru, voiced to giddy effect by Steve Carell, and his mad scientist pal Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and their Minions are making jellies and jams now.

Then a secret agent, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) nabs Gru and hauls him before Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), head of the Anti Villain League. Some evildoer has used a gigantic magnetic hovercraft to swipe an entire Russian arctic research station and has some evil-doing formula that cannot fall into the wrong hands. Might Gru help track him down?

“No thank you, Meeester Sheep’s Butt.”

“That’s RAMSbottom.”

“Like that’s better.”

When Nefario leaves Gru’s employ and some of his Minions go missing, Gru teams up with the fetching Lucy to hunt for this villain, who apparently works in the local mall. His suspects? The zany wig-shop owner (Ken Jeong) and the gregarious Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the salsa-and-tango dancing owner of a Mexican restaurant.

The babbling Minions move front and center for this sequel, tapping into the kid-friendliest element of the first film. Their workplace mishaps, combat style and a sort of Minion Island where they’re taken all suggest “Let’s put stuff in that could be turned into Universal theme park attractions.” But beyond that, they’re the perfect sight gag.

See a Minion sit on another Minion’s shoulders so that he’s big enough to be a coxswain burbling a Minion-speak version of “Stroke STROKE” to Gru as he rows them ashore. Watch the Minion millions go all OompaLoompaas they sing and dance and eat way too much sugar.

Carell positively revels in his simple voice role and the film’s design of the character — wide-shouldered, skinny legs, ungainly but light on his feet — complements that. Among the new voice actors, Bratt dials up the Latin charm past hilarious, also matching his gracefully rotund character’s perfect design.

Here’s a 3D movie that makes actual gimmicky, joking use of the 3D medium, with a splashy production design full of Bond Villain Lairs and bright, noisy colors.

And Minions. Don’t forget the Minions. They’re what make “Despicable Me 2” the funniest kids’ cartoon of the summer.

DESPICABLE ME 2

3.5 stars out of 4 (Grade A-)

MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and mild action.

Cast: The voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan

Credits: Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. A Universal release

Running time: 1:38

 

'BRILLIANTLY ANIMATED'

By Rick Bentley

The Fresno Bee

“Despicable Me” had two big things going for it — heart and humor.

“Despicable Me 2” doesn’t have nearly as much heart, but it makes up for that deficiency with a lot more humor.

It’s tough to find the same kind of emotional notes that made the original film — the 2010 hit where Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) goes from a super villain who steals the moon to the loving father of three orphans — so enjoyable. It seems almost impossible to emotionally top adopting orphans.

That’s why the sequel leans more on the humor, especially with a much-expanded role for the jabbering, yellow, round assistants known as his Minions. These are the funniest yellow characters this side of “The Simpsons.” Not since the “Madagascar” movies — where the feisty penguins stole the show — has a group of supporting players been so much fun.

Had it not been for this shift in focus, “Despicable Me 2” would have had to bank on the thin plot points of first love and mommy envy. The recruitment of Gru into a super-secret organization that tracks super bad guys isn’t that interesting. Nor is the addition of a potential love interest, despite some very energetic voice work by Kristen Wiig.

Carell continues to bring wonderful life to Gru, but this time around he doesn’t have a lot to say because of an uninspired script by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud were smart enough to throw in a steady stream of inane antics by the Minions — particularly the three stooges of Kevin, Bob and Stuart — to get the movie back on its laugh track. The characters are pure silliness and that works beautifully.

The other big plus is that “Despicable Me 2” is brilliantly animated. In fact, this movie features such grand computer-generated vistas, there are moments when the backgrounds comes close to being distracting.

“Despicable Me 2” works because of the direction and stunning visual effects. It should do well enough to make a third movie possible. If that happens, let’s hope the focus shifts to the Minions. Because if the production can be as beautifully animated as in this sequel, there’s plenty of possibilities ahead.

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DESPICABLE ME 2

Grade: B

Rated PG for rude humor. Stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.

 

SPINOFF IN THE WORKS

By Stephanie Merry

The Washington Post

The minions are back. The little yellow torpedoes warmed hearts when they shuffled into 2010’s animated hit “Despicable Me” with the bounciness of a beach ball, the elasticity of a rubberband and a vernacular composed mostly of giggles. Once again, they manage to tickle moviegoers big and small in the way only cat videos usually do, and they very nearly run off with the sequel, “Despicable Me 2.” But the sweet story holds its own.

The Russian-accented Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is a very different villain than when we last saw him. He has traded in a life of crime, including moon thievery and other hijinks, for a more sedate occupation. Gru, his accomplice, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and the minions now spend their days making jam, and Gru passes his evenings taking care of his adopted trio of daughters, Margo, Edith and Agnes. His biggest stressors are planning Agnes’ birthday party and coming to grips with Margo’s interest in boys.

But this homey existence is shaken when agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) of the Anti-Villain League drops in with a lipstick taser and a plan to recruit the reformed bad guy. It seems that an under-the-radar super villain has used a giant magnet to make off with an entire laboratory that housed a gooey substance capable of transforming people, animals and minions into purple snaggletoothed monsters that eat everything in sight.

The league has tracked the super villain to a mall, and they need Gru to embed himself deep within the concrete jungle to discern which of the store owners is responsible. Gru agrees to take on the gig, although he’s hardly thrilled to be joined by Lucy as his new partner.

The identity of the villain isn’t much of a mystery — there are only two real possibilities, a wig shop owner and the proprietor of a Tex-Mex restaurant — but other storylines round out the narrative, including Gru’s romantic interest in Lucy, Margo’s crush on a possible super villain’s son and a minion-napper who is making off with Gru’s worker bees at an alarming rate.

“Despicable Me 2” is a tamer movie than its predecessor, which may irk some of that movie’s fans. A better title might be “Delightful Me,” given that Gru is entirely devoted to his kids and seems disinclined to revisit his former profession. People change. Expecting Gru to be the same abominable shadow-dweller is like assuming close friends will still want to go out every night once they’ve gotten married and moved to the suburbs.

Then again, Gru doesn’t shed all of his former tendencies. He’s still an unassuming action hero, with impressive moves for a man built like a barrel balancing atop chopsticks. He just tends to laugh less maniacally between action sequences.

Some of those lively operations should provide a bit of nail-biting, especially for little ones. But there’s plenty of fun music to buoy the mood, thanks to original tunes from Pharrell. And the animation is beguiling, particularly when Lucy drives her car into the ocean, transforming it into a submarine that scoots around sharks and fish.

There’s no need, however, to spend extra cash on the 3-D version. The glasses don’t add much allure, with one exception: During the final credits, as in the original film, the minions try to reach out from the screen as far as they can. That was the first time the technology elicited “ooohs” from the audience. The thought of being so close to those adorable wee beings was too much to silently bear. Luckily there’s more where that came from. A “Despicable Me” spinoff, “Minions,” is set for a 2014 release.

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Three stars. PG. Contains rude humor and mild action. 98 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars okay, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

 

 



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