"Despicable Me" had two big things going for it — heart and humor.
"Despicable Me 2" doesn't have nearly as much heart, but it makes up for that deficiency with a lot more humor.
It's tough to find the same kind of emotional notes that made the original film — the 2010 hit where Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) goes from a super villain who steals the moon to the loving father of three orphans — so enjoyable. It seems almost impossible to emotionally top adopting orphans.
That's why the sequel leans more on the humor, especially with a much-expanded role for the jabbering, yellow, round assistants known as his Minions. These are the funniest yellow characters this side of "The Simpsons." Not since the "Madagascar" movies — where the feisty penguins stole the movie — has a group of supporting players been so much fun.
Had it not been for this shift in focus, "Despicable Me 2" would have had to bank on the thin plot points of first love and mommy envy. The recruitment of Gru into a super-secret organization that tracks super bad guys isn't that interesting. Nor is the addition of a potential love interest, despite some very energetic voice work by Kristen Wiig.
Carell continues to bring wonderful life to Gru, but this time around, he doesn't have a lot to say because of an uninspired script by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul.
Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud were smart enough to throw in a steady stream of inane antics by the Minions — particularly the three stooges of Kevin, Bob and Stuart — to get the movie back on its laugh track. The characters are pure silliness and that works beautifully.
The other big plus is that "Despicable Me 2" is brilliantly animated. In fact, this movie features such grand computer-generated vistas, there are moments when the backgrounds come close to being distracting.
"Despicable Me 2" works because of the direction and stunning visual effects. It should do well enough to make a third movie possible. If that happens, let's hope the focus shifts to the Minions. If the production can be as beautifully animated as this sequel, there are plenty of possibilities ahead.
"Despicable Me 2" rated PG for rude humor. Stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Running time:98 minutes. Grade: B
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.