Friday, July 5, 2013

Return of hilarious minions plus awesome 3-D make ‘Despicable Me 2’ must-see


By Steve Crum

The minions have me hooked again. Despicable Me 2 again wisely features the diminutive little critters, resembling yellow board game pieces with a big eye or two. As in Despicable Me #1, they are dedicated and loyal factory workers for their boss, the once evil Gru. He’s the lanky, pointy-nosed, bald fellow who stole the moon in the 2010 animated film. Gru became an adoptive father in the first movie, reformed his evil ways, and continues to raise his three youngsters here. 

Despicable Me 2 is just as charming, hilarious, clever, and well paced as its predecessor. The credit goes to the same crew who created DM1: co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, and the army of talented Illumination Entertainment technicians and artists. 

Funny how voice actors are now so recognized, given top billing, and paid so well...compared to Golden Age of Animation voice artists like Mel Blanc, June Foray, and Daws Butler. They are better known today, thanks to a wide recognition of their talents during the last three decades. Classic Disney movies like Pinocchio and Snow White seldom employed major name actors to voice cartoon characters. While comedians like Ed Wynn and Phil Harris would occasionally voice for a feature cartoon, their names were never prominently displayed in the titles. 

In this truly second Golden Age of Animation, major stars voicing in animated features have become a given, and several have expressed their pleasure for getting paid so well for the use of their voice talents. Despicable Me 2 is trendy in that respect, featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, and Ken Jeong. Their names are highly touted in movie ads, hooking patrons to see the film. 

The plot of DM2, taking up pretty much where the first movie ended, follows the Anti-Villain League as it tries to find who stole a lab, using a giant magnet (!), which contains a dangerous chemical compound that morphs living things into indestructible monsters. AVL agent Lucy Wilde (voiced by Kristen Wiig) is on the case, and enlists former villain but still super genius Gru (Steve Carell) to join her in the hunt. But Gru is into fatherhood, even dressing up as a fairy princess for his three kids. 

Gru relents, and the ensuing chase includes bouts with TNT, an active volcano, a wig store, a Mexican restaurant, a giant shark, and dealing with his oldest daughter’s new boyfriend. The boyfriend might be connected to El Macho (Benjamin Britt), who is an AVL suspect. Factor in visual jokes via the hundreds of minions being experimented upon with the evil chemical, and fun ensues. In fact, it is fun for the entire family, a rarity in Hollywood movies these days.

If you can see Despicable Me 2 in 3-D, do so. Particularly during the clever closing credits, the three dimensional effects are the best of any movie. Ever.
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GRADE on a Scale of A to F: A

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