"Despicable Me 2": Mo' Minions, Mo' Problems

Less inspired than its predecessor, and not exactly a necessary sequel, this madcap caper still makes for a righteously looney 'toon. The reformed Euro-supervillain Gru (Steve Carrell), having retired to rear his adopted daughters and develop a line of jams and jellies, finds himself recruited by a spazzy special agent (Kristen Wiig) to thwart an incognito rival. As it happens, this opponent's dastardly scheme involves morphing Gru's multitude of cute yellow minions into frazzled purple monsters. With writers Ken Daurio and Cinco supplying a deep grab bag of subplots, directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud mostly just stay busy romping around within their gleefully designed environments. Broad, brightly colored slapstick ensues, with some favorably Muppet-ish mayhem, and the most logical thing about this movie is its use of 3-D as an extension of cartoonishly exaggerated proportions. Nice touches are in evidence, like Gru's sweet and very funny good-mood montage, subsequently undone by a newly depressed reprise. But the overall construct has a strange and unpredictable effect on performances: Carrell's almost better this way, with his mugging fully abstracted by animation, whereas we start to miss Wiig's actual face. Other voice talents include those of Steve Coogan, more or less squandered as he often is by American films, and Benjamin Bratt, making good strides to get beyond his humorless comfort zone.

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