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Review: Despicable Me 2 

**1/2

Before we get completely blinded by the dazzle of its $543 million worldwide gross, let's recall that 2010's Despicable Me focused on a super-villain, a man whose nefarious schemes included stealing the moon. But once three little girls entered his life, he mellowed, eventually transforming from "bad" to "dad." The end.

But wait! Because it did so amazingly well, a sequel simply had to be made (where would parents spend their money otherwise?), and so we have Despicable Me 2. Of course, because the central character of Gru (again voiced by Steve Carell) experienced a complete character arc in the first picture, returning scripters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul were restricted in their narrative choices - as a result, we instead get a film that would more accurately be titled Adorable Me.

Lest the children in the audience get confused or upset had Gru reverted back to a life of crime, he's instead recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help stop a criminal whose identity remains unknown. Joining him is AVL agent Lucy Wilde; she's played by Kristen Wiig, who previously lent her vocal chords to the first Despicable Me for the comparatively smaller role of the cruel foster-agency head Miss Hattie.

For the most part, Despicable Me 2 is amusing and cheerful, but it not only lacks the soft-cheddar edge that made the first film stand out - moments like when Gru inflates a balloon animal for a sad boy, only to then pop it himself - it also fails to tap into our emotions as thoroughly. Before, there was genuine poignancy in Gru's relationships with the three orphan girls; here, there's just cuteness.

But why carp? The main reason people will see Despicable Me 2 is to catch the yellow Minions in action. Proving to be the scene stealers in Part I, these squabbling, chattering creatures are utilized even more in this outing, and have their own movie coming out in December 2014. In fact, there's no escaping them, as they've presently been acquired to promote McDonald's Happy Meals, Fritos, General Mills cereals, Chiquita bananas and dozens of other products and companies. Give them enough time and I expect they'll also be shilling for Halliburton, the NRA and, given their phallic shapes, even Trojans.

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