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‘Despicable Me 2’ offers lots of action but little else

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With the voices of:

Gru Steve Carell

Lucy Kristen Wiig

Eduardo Benjamim Bratt

Margo Miranda Cosgrove

Floyd Ken Jeong

Silas Steve Coogan

Universal Pictures presents an animated film directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Written by Ken
Daurio and Cinco Paul. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated PG (for rude humor and mild action). Opening Wednesday at local theaters.

Updated: August 4, 2013 6:04AM

The way a 5-year-old behind me at a preview screening for “Despicable Me 2” laughed delightedly as one of the film’s little yellow pill-shaped minions cavorted in a pre-feature advertisement plugging a tie-in video game made one thing clear.

It didn’t really matter what happened for the next 90 minutes or so, as long as plenty of those cheerily demented little guys were hopping around dispensing full-tilt silliness. And that turned out to be true as the kids sat patiently through the plot machinations of this remarkably tepid sequel to the surprise 2010 hit, then erupted in giggles whenever the babbling minions barged onto centerstage. Which was often enough to make their formerly villainous boss Dr. Gru almost seem like a supporting player.

That’s just as well, really, because Gru (voice of Steve Carell with a Russian — or is it Hungarian? — accent) has given up nefariousness to become a devoted dad to his three cute little orphan daughters. He was full of wicked pizzazz while scheming to steal the moon in the comparatively inventive and charming original. Now, though, he’s mainly concerned with throwing birthday parties (dressed up as the world’s ugliest fairy princess) and repurposing his laboratory of evil to make “tasty jams and jellies.”

Gru gets a chance to get back into the game as a good guy when he’s recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help it track down a super-villain who has stolen a serum that can turn cute lovable things into horrible monsters. He’s sent undercover at a mall with new, overeager agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) because the AVL got a tip that one of the business owners stole the serum. And Gru can’t shake the idea that Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), the owner of the mall’s Mexican restaurant, looks an awful lot like the supposedly deceased El Macho, a world-class bad guy rumored to have died in a bizarre accident involving a shark, a lot of dynamite and an erupting volcano.

The spy spoof stuff wears thin pretty quickly, but it’s propped up somewhat as a shy romance develops between Lucy and Gru, who has realized his girls need a mom. Though, frankly, it’s hard to see what Lucy sees in the guy, who’s stoop-shouldered, bald and twice her age. Maybe it’s the accent. Or lingering traces of bad-boy appeal.

Regardless, after a little heartbreak and a whole lot of spy shenanigans, “DM2” finally ends up with a pitched battle between the forces of evil and the forces of formerly evil, with the lovableness of the newly monstrous minions at stake.

It’s no accident that the minions are a major feature of the grand finale. In fact, it seems there’s a spinoff in the works that’s devoted to them exclusively. At which point the services of Dr. Gru, evil, good or indifferent, may no longer be needed.

Bruce Ingram is a locally based free-lance writer.

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