Despicable Me 2
Opens Wed., July 3 at Ark Lodge and other theaters. Rated PG. 98 minutes.
Forget the 3-D. The most important question any parent will ask about this animated sequel is, Does the theater have air conditioning? That’s the moviegoing technology that matters most this week, but it’s only the first reason for seeing this funny, good-natured family romp. Again given a Slavic villain’s voice by Steve Carell, the bald, twig-legged Gru is now a single suburban dad raising the three orphan girls he appropriated in 2010’s Despicable Me. The bespectacled eldest daughter is a texting tween just discovering boys; the other two bounce and squeal without being too annoying; none of their names matter. New to the series—though voiced by Kristen Wiig, who played a different character in the first installment (surely there will be three)—is Lucy, a karate-chopping bundle of goofy adrenaline with a sharp, perky nose. She looks like a whittled-down mannequin, a cross between Wilma Flintstone (the orange hair) and Lucille Ball (the boldly miscalculating eyes). Lucy’s a sunny, comic creation, yet she’s almost elegant next to bird-nosed, beleaguered Gru, a human coat rack of a hero, draped with too many cares and indignities.
Gru’s basic problem is that he’s bored now that he’s out of the thievin’ game. He and his goggle-eyed yellow minions—essentially upright Twinkies, with their babbling language supplied by directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin—have vainly attempted to go legit with a basement jelly-making enterprise. Forcibly recruited by the Anti-Villain League (Lucy’s employer) to recover a stolen potion, Gru sets up shop in a local mall, where the evil perpetrator is supposedly hiding. The thief will catch a thief, and Gru is newly energized by the investigation, setting his sights on Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the burly proprietor of the mall’s Mexican eatery.
In its amusing first scene, as a flying sky magnet attacks a snowy Bond-villain compound, bits and pieces of this and that go flying through the Arctic air. To otherwise justify the 3-D, Gru and company smash through windows, battle a fierce guard-chicken (!), leap out of planes, and are pursued by a swarm of monstrous little purple demons (on this plot point, parents will detect a parallel with World War Z). All that expensive CG rendering is fun as far as it goes, but kids at the press screening laughed just as hard at the fart guns. Despicable Me 2 doesn’t aim as high as Pixar’s best efforts do, but its core idea is sound: Through this adventure, a new family will inevitably be formed. And if those family members have the skin texture of Nerf balls, they also have the same enjoyable bounce.