Despicable Me 2
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Opens July 3
As hook-nosed supervillain Felonius Gru aims a giant bazooka at the audience, they brace to see what projectile will pop out from the 3-D screen. The last thing one expects is an inflatable unicorn. But Gru, voiced by Steve Carell with the same Slavic accent, has retired from evil work to become a full-time dad to his adopted girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher). Just as he settles into the routine of play dates and bedtime stories, he is acquired (read: kidnapped) by gangly and eccentric government agent Lucy Wilde of the Anti-Villain League, voiced by Kristen Wiig, who recruits him as an evil consultant of sorts.
Though the plot meanders for most of the movie, directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud deliver the same fun, slapstick entertainment that won us over in Despicable Me. Those gibberish-uttering, walking cheese-puffs Gru calls minions steal the show once again with delightfully juvenile routines. When Gru's assistant, Dr. Nefario, voiced by an unrecognizable (therefore tolerable) Russell Brand, confesses that he has been offered a position by another still-evil villain, the minions send him off with a 21-fart salute. Later in the movie, they even perform a hilarious minion-speak rendition of All-4-One's "I Swear." If the adults in the audience aren't won over by the physical comedy, there's also a satisfying amount of grown-up humor. Disguised as a hulking fairy princess, Gru is asked by a toddler why he is so fat. He replies in a high-pitched voice, "Sometimes I eat instead of facing my problems."
Yet, sadly, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio fail to achieve the bite and substance of the first movie. Whereas the original worked to challenge the villain archetype, this follow-up resorts to outdated racial tropes-like the hypermasculine, hyper-Mexican El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) and Fu Manchu mini-me Eaglesan (Hollywood's go-to Asian guy, Ken Jeong)-that would be offensive if they weren't so tiresome. And where the first admirably portrayed an unconventional family in Gru and the orphan girls, the sequel pushes for a mother figure to complete a nuclear family. But hey, who cares about all that, right? It's just a kids' movie after all.