"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?
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 Oompa Loompa as 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.
Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.
'Despicable Me 2'
Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand and Steve Coogan. Rated PG (98 minutes)