I wonder if anyone else left the theater craving Twinkies?
It must have been the “minions,” those one- and two-eyed, goofy, squishy little yellow creatures (my daughter thinks they look like mini-corn dogs; I vote for the resurrected spongy treats) who assist Steve Carell’s Gru in the “Despicable Me” series of animated family comedies.
Perhaps because of their breakout success in the 2010 original, the slapstick critters are all over the new “Despicable Me 2.” They get high on sugar and sing an odd tune. They see a pretty girl and daydream of love and romance. They perform an ear-worm version of “YMCA.” And they cavort on a tropical island, occasionally dropping their shorts and diving into the water (never has an animated creature gotten so much mileage out of showing its bottom or — if you’ve seen the trailer — even just saying the word “bottom”).
But most of all, they show up just when the film hits one of its draggy parts and young ones’ attention begins to wander. And there are a few of those unfortunate stretches in the just-too-long sequel, which lacks the heart of the original but has plenty of laughs for kids and parents alike.
Gru might be my favorite Carell character of all time, and the actor takes full advantage of the best nondescript, Eastern bloc accent this side of Borat to mine laughs from lines that might not otherwise deserve them.
The plot finds former super-villain Gru (in the first film he tried to steal the moon) recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to apply his bad guy know-how to foil dangerous plots. At first Gru is reluctant, but his post-villainy entrepreneurial occupation — he’s creating a line of homemade jams and jellies — isn’t going well, and he discovers that he misses the gadgets and adventure. He signs on to suss out a super-villain among the shop owners in a glitzy mall by posing as the owner of a bakery.
The AVL teams Gru up with Lucy Wilde, a good-guy spy and admirer voiced by “Saturday Night Live” and “Bridesmaids” star Kristen Wiig (she played Miss Hattie in the “Despicable” original). I often find Wiig’s live-action work over-the-top and grating, but she’s really got the perfect delivery for animation. The pair eventually enjoy a sweet and funny romance, helped along by Agnes, Gru’s unicorn-obsessed, youngest daughter.
The duo must battle not only the bad guy (I won’t spoil who that turns out to be) but also Gru’s defected assistant, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand in a subdued appearance) and those nutty minions, who have been captured and transformed into rabid beasts.
The animation is great, especially among the minions, whose every action seems to instigate a ripple effect that creates a chain of slapstick laughs. The voice work is admirable, especially that of Pierre Coffin, who created the inscrutable jabber of hundreds of minions, and Benjamin Bratt, who had to voice the character of Eduardo Perez to existing animation based on the vocal performance of Al Pacino, who reportedly dropped out because of creative differences. Matching Pacino’s wild and scatter-shot vocal rhythms could not have been easy.
I don’t know what Al’s version of “Despicable Me 2” would have been like, but (in spite of a few too many flatulence jokes) the one we got is a lot of fun.
Be sure to stick around for the closing credits, which hilariously tease the 2014 spinoff minion movie.
‘Despicable Me 2’
Starring: Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Ken Jeong, Amanda Cosgrove
Running time: 98 minutes
Theaters: Alamo Lake Creek, Alamo Slaughter, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Stone Hill Town Center, City Lights, The Domain, Gateway, Highland 10, Lakeline Mall, Moviehouse & Eatery, Starplex 12, Tinseltown Austin, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Westgate 11.