There’s a fizzy silliness to “Despicable Me 2” that will make it a huge word-of-mouth hit among key demographics. That would be 2- to 6-year-olds, and parents who enjoy seeing their kids curled into balls of uncontrollable laughter.
You need to have seen the original 2010 comedy to get the most out of this sequel. Luckily, a lot of people have.
“Despicable Me,” Universal Studios’ first venture into computer animated cartooning, was a smash. It offered a nifty novelty, with a would-be supervillain as the central character. Gru (Steve Carell with a larynx-twisting Hungarian accent) was a perversely winning mash-up of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch and Charles Addams’ Uncle Fester. The film had a dark and whimsical sense of humor that was occasionally downright grisly. Gru adopted three sugar-sweet orphan girls who could help him infiltrate his archenemy’s compound. He put the girls to sleep in hollowed-out bombs. When one appeared to be skewered inside an iron maiden he kept in the kitchen, he shrugged, “Plan can work with two.”
Margo, Enid and Agnes are back and more prominent in this tale. No longer a misanthrope, Gru dotes on his daughters and spends much of his time fending off inappropriate dates foisted on him by his busybody neighbors. An odd-couple potential romance appears when he teams up with an agent of the Anti-Villain League (Kristin Wiig, returning from the original, but in a new role) to discover which shop owner at the local mall is a baddie in disguise. Is the new fiend on the block the oddly coiffed owner of the wig shop (Ken Jeong)? The proprietor of the Mexican restaurant (Benjamin Bratt), who serves his customers life-sized taco sombreros filled with guacamole?
As before, Gru’s assisted, sort of, by a zany band of yellow, pill-shaped Minions, who jabber a gibberish language and cook up all manner of clumsy monkeyshines. The roster of grown-up characters is smaller than in the first outing to make more room for the Minions’ accident-prone antics and gobbledygook versions of platinum-selling pop hits. It’s all as bright and bouncy as a roller-coaster ride.
Pretty much any gag that would go over the head of a 7-year-old has been removed. In fact, the only grownup joke I noticed was that one missile in an array of doomsday rockets targeted Hoboken. But this is not a movie for jaded grownups. A squeal of excitement shivered through the preview audience when the Fart Gun reappeared from the first film. Same again for the comeback of Kyle, Gru’s green, fangy pet dog creature. And for Dr. Nefario, Gru’s assistant, and his very slow moped.
For an adult, the predictability could turn you blasé. For kids, revisiting these jokes is a howl. Pinkie promise.