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Film review: Cuteness Abounds in the World of ‘Despicable Me 2’

despicable-me-2-still04What can I say about Despicable Me 2 ? Well, for a start, it’s really cute, and my daughter Katie enjoyed it even more than the 2010 megahit original.

(I realize my daughter’s opinion may not matter much in your household, but not surprisingly it does matter a great deal in mine. It’s also true she’s a tougher critic than me – anyone who has watched TV with her can confirm that.)

despicable-me-2-image07Gru (once again voiced with a somewhat Slavic-sounding accent by Steve Carell) has left his bad ways behind to raise Margo (Miranda Cosgrove of television’s iCarly), Edith (Dana Gaier of Bullied) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher of Masha and the Bear). He’s even manufacturing some rather overpowering jams and jellies with his beloved Minions and an increasingly unhappy Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand).

But after a new menace threatens the world (doesn’t it always?), the Anti-Villain League comes calling in the person of tightly wound operative Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig). She’s been dispatched by her boss, the unfortunately named Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), to recruit Gru.

despicable-me-2-picture02Set a thief to catch a thief, right? Well, the thief they wish to apprehend (he or she has a rather nasty mutation serum) apparently resides in a super-sized shopping mall – is it (among other suspects) Floyd Eagle-san, proprietor of the local hair replacement club for men (Ken Jeong), or perhaps Eduardo Perez (Benjamin Bratt, who joined the cast after Al Pacino dropped out of the project), the owner of Salsa & Salsa restaurant who bears a striking resemblance to the long-presumed-dead super-baddie El Macho?

Despicable Me 2 doesn’t break new ground in narrative – it quickly rushes through its adventure and romance story threads in just over an hour-and-a-half – but the well-crafted 3D CGI film written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!) has plenty of silly situations for children to laugh at while the adults enjoy references aimed at them. That seems to be the winning recipe of modern animated features: not too sweet, not too tart.

despicable-me-2-still01The actors that provide their voices also provide the timing and delivery that land laughs and on occasion pull heartstrings. And as I said before, it’s really cute (except for the mutated Minions, which scared some of the very small children at the screening my daughter and I attended). What more could you want?

Next year the Minions get their own prequel; set in the 1960s, it will feature the vocal talents of Sandra Bullock as supervillain Scarlett Overkill. Until then, Despicable Me 2 offers enough fun for the whole family, even if the ground has been covered before.

despicable-me-2-picture04Despicable Me 2 (www.despicableme.com) opens nationally in wide release today (July 3). For locations and show times in the Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (www.regmovies.com), Carmike Cinemas (www.carmike.com) and Malco Theatres (www.malco.com). Rated PG for rude humor and mild action, 98 min. Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Benjamin Bratt, Moises Arias, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Nasim Pedrad, Kristen Schaal and Ken Jeong.

 

*Images courtesy Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).