While it doesn't quite measure up to original film in terms of heart, there are still plenty of reasons to see the thoroughly entertaining "Despicable Me 2," a richly-detailed computer-animated family comedy that is sure to earn high marks with both kids and adults.
The film is the sequel, of course, to 2010's "Despicable Me," a surprisingly effective tale about Gru (voice of Steve Carell), an eeevil Eastern European super-villain whose heart is melted by a trio of young sisters he "borrowed" from the orphanage to help pull off his plan for world domination. By the film's end, Gru found out the joys of being a real dad, and adopted the girls for real.
But perhaps the characters that won over audiences more than anybody were Gru's Minions -- hordes of tiny, yellow, genetically-mutated henchmen -- whose constant gibberish and non-stop antics drew huge laughs every time they appeared on screen.
Thankfully, there's even more Minion madness in "Despicable Me 2," which finds Gru a responsible, reformed super-villain whose passion for dominating the world has been converted into a passion for dominating the jam and jelly business.
Other evil geniuses step up in Gru's absence, though, and the threat of a super-serum that could doom the world leads the global organization the Anti-Villain League to call upon Gru to help an enterprising agent, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), ferret out the bad guy.
See my review of the film on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce below.
"Despicable Me 2" co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, and as well a co-writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, were clearly paying attention to what made the original film such of a winner with audiences, and were clearly intent on delivering a sequel that drives the narrative forward instead of relying on the same jokes and tricks to generate cheap laughs.
Here we find Gru growing into a family man and learning how to be a protective father, and since his daughters so desperately want to him be happy, too, they're urging he gets into the dating scene. Naturally, Lucy is the perfect match for the socially awkward Gru, it's just that the circumstances never quite appear right for their relationship to bloom.
"Despicable Me 2" also introduces several new characters, including Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt), a restaurant owner whom Gru suspects may be an old nemesis, and the always entertaining Ken Jeong as another suspicions shopkeeper; and welcomes the return of others like Dr. Nefraio, who is remarkably voiced once again by Russell Brand. Also back are a spate of cool new gadgets, gizmos and other weaponry which gave the first film its retro groove.
While "Despicable Me 2" has its share of sly pop culture references sprinkled throughout to appeal to the adults, the film clearly lacks the heart of the original. The filmmakers sure give it a try, though, as a subplot involving Gru's youngest girl, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), wanting a mom is sure to tug at your emotions.
Principal to the plot this time, this time are the Minions, whose madcap ways are taken to a whole new level as they become subjected to experiments by the film's mystery villain. And like before, you can't help but smile, laugh or even howl every time one or a dozen of the lovable little troublemakers turn up, many times in ways you wouldn't expect. They're a real hoot.
If you see the film in 3D, be sure to stick around for the end credits, where the filmmakers smartly use the gimmick of the technology to its full extent as the Minions literally bring the action out into the audience. It leaves you begging for more, and makes you realize how woefully under-used the medium is in other films.
"Despicable Me 2," rated PG, 3 1/2 stars out of four.
See the trailer for "Despicable Me 2" below.
What other local critics are saying ...
Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press gives the film 3 stars, saying the film shows that it "was crafted by folks who care about the story rather than just the dough a sequel can make."
Colin Covert of the Star Tribune also give the film 3 stars, saying the film will be a huge hit to "2- to 6-year-olds, and parents who enjoy seeing their kids curled into balls of uncontrollable laughter."
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.