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Despicable Me 2 

A joke machine, but a pretty good joke machine

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It’s entirely possible that if you remove the Minions from the Despicable Me movies, they would be utterly without value. But there they are. And they’re funny little sons-o’-guns.

The return of Gru (Steve Carell) was inevitable in movie-biz terms, even though his supervillainy was reformed at the end of the 2010 original when he adopted his three adorable little girls. But now he’s needed by an international organization, represented by overzealous agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), as a sort of consultant who can think like a villain to find a villain—in this case, whichever pretender-to-being-a-mall-entrepreneur is actually the mastermind behind stealing an experimental mutating formula.

There’s some rudimentary character business, as Gru’s youngest daughter, Agnes (Elsie Fisher), and a butt-inski neighbor keep trying to find him a nice girl, and Gru frets over oldest daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) becoming interested in boys. And as was the case in the original, the effort at pretending this is more than a joke machine feels token bordering on insulting.

It’s a pretty good joke machine, fortunately, with directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud improving their choreography of elaborate comic set pieces, from a suburban backyard birthday party for Agnes, to Gru’s dance-floor intrusion on Margo’s romantic moment.

Mostly, though, it’s about the Minions, those little yellow capsules of immature giggling and manic slapstick. Coffin and Renaud use them as much as possible, looking as silly as possible, whether it’s chasing down a car in which Gru has been kidnapped, or performing their babble-voiced versions of “I Swear” and “Y.M.C.A.” And it’s hard not to get sucked up into their lowbrow charms. The idea of an in-development stand-alone “Minion Movie” doesn’t even feel like a cynical cash grab. It’s a realization that maybe the Despicable Mes really should have been “Minion Movies” all along.

DESPICABLE ME 2

3_stars.gif

Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt
Rated PG

Twitter: @ScottRenshaw

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