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Despicable Minions have heart and humor, but 'Despicable Me 2' has a weak story

'Despicable Me 2' stars Steve Carell as the voice of former villain Gru. 'Despicable Me 2' is the sequel to the 2010 film.

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In the film, Agnes and Margo once again represent different parenting challenges for Gru – Agnes unknowingly yearns for a maternal presence in her life, while the budding adolescent Margo has formed an interest in the opposite sex – and the results are touching and funny in equal measure; unfortunately, though, tomboyish Edith doesn’t have much to do. Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig voiced Miss Hattie in the first Despicable Me, but in the sequel the role of Agent Wilde proves to be a better match for her sense of anxious comedic timing. Indeed, Wiig’s vocal quirks are synced perfectly with her animated counterpart’s on-screen action and help make the flirtations between Gru and Lucy enjoyable to watch.

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Notable voice additions in the sequel include Coogan as the chinless Ramsbottom, Benjamin Bratt as the macho Mexican restaurant owner Eduardo Perez, and Moisés Arias as Eduardo’s hipster son, Antonio. Their vocal tendencies are a solid fit for the stylized and caricature-like physical designs of their respective cartoon alter-egos, but the same cannot be said for Ken Jeong in a minor role as the peculiar wig store owner named Floyd Eagle-san. (Jeong, for the record, also voiced a talk show host in the first movie; his character in the sequel is perhaps even less memorable.)

Of course, there’s no way to properly talk about Despicable Me 2 without touching on the expanded role that the Minions play in the film’s madcap proceedings. The diminutive yellow critters may have their own (semi-)indecipherable language, but their brand of humor is essentially a throwback to silent film comedy, between the over-the-top physical gags, pantomime-style bits, frequent costume changes, and even a Minion fantasy sequence. Problem is, so much of the sequel is devoted to concocting scenarios where the Minions riff on and lampoon just about every social and/or pop cultural trend you can imagine (often to very funny effect), it makes the main storyline and character sub-plots feel like an afterthought at times.

Despicable Me 2, in other words, suffers because the filmmakers seemingly went too far by over-emphasizing the side elements that audiences loved about the first movie. Fortunately, unlike when, say, Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow was upgraded to a larger role in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, the Minions have yet to be watered down to the point where they lose the idiosyncratic spark that made them memorable in the first place (there’s even an in-joke about that, with regard to the disgusting jam mass-produced by the Minions). That’s good to know, considering what lies ahead in the future of the Despicable Me franchise (as teased in the film’s mid-credits scene).

Similarly, there’s enough inventiveness present in the film’s visual design and use of the 3D computer-animation medium to elevate Despicable Me 2 far enough so that the film manages to overcome shortcomings in its basic storytelling approach. Those who adore the Minions – and want to spend more time having some light-hearted fun in the zany Despicable Me universe – should get what they are looking for in the sequel (which, if you enjoyed the first movie’s usage of 3D, is worth the higher ticket price for a 3D screening).

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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