The former baddie/now daddy Gru in the animated 3-D film Despicable Me 2 looks like something out of a Charles Addams cartoon. With his bulky frame and hairless noggin, he bears a passing resemblance to Uncle Fester, though his toothpick-thin legs elevate him at least a couple of feet taller. (The character’s shaky Slavic accent voiced by Steve Carell, however, teeters somewhere between Bela Lugosi and Boris Badenov.) In the initial installment, released three years ago, the despicable Gru exchanged a life of supervillainy for domesticity after three little orphans from Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls commit the most heinous crime of all – they steal his heart. In DM2, the question is: Can Gru also open his heart to romantic love, while saving the world from a mysterious criminal who possesses a serum with the power to transform Jekylls into Hydes? You can guess how it all turns out.
Like its predecessor, DM2 caters to the preadolescent, as opposed to the kid-in-the-adult. The sequel ramps up the butt and fart jokes – what 10-year-old isn’t tickled by the occasional bodily function gag? – and emphasizes the saccharine over the smart. And for good measure, it throws in a pop song or two to rouse its young audience, like most animated features tend to do these days. Given the outlandish premise, you'll wish the film twinkled with a more savvy sense of humor and adventure, like the chapters of the Toy Story series, for example.
That said, the one element in DM2 (and its predecessor) that appeals to all age groups are Gru’s Minions, those little yellow capsules of chaos that bounce around the screen with free-spirited abandon. Their gibberish and slapstick antics are welcome in a film that’s otherwise unexceptional for the most part. Among the inspired moments: a root beer hall scene in which these guys overindulge in ice cream sundaes like drunks at an open bar. When the Minions transmute into crazed purple people eaters as part of a nefarious plot only Gru can foil (with the help of a lady friend), DM2 finally finds its groove. The rumor is that the planned spin-off of this franchise will feature only these unintelligible bundles of id. Now that’s an animated movie everyone can get excited about.