"Despicable Me 2" has nearly all the things you would want to see and hear in an animated feature family comedy.
It has distinctive and charmingly-rendered characters, voice talent that is very expressive, an interesting and entertaining storyline, an overall attention to detail and, most importantly, a sense of fun.
"Despicable Me 2" ("DM2") is co-directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud.
Renaud is a Parkland High School, Class of '85, graduate who attended the Baum School of Art where he received a $1,000 scholarship.
Renaud and Coffin co-directed "Despicable Me" (2010), which grossed $251 million. Renaud directed "Dr. Seuss The Lorax" (2012), which grossed $214 million.
Renaud worked at Marvel and CD Comics, 1994 - 2000. At Blue Sky Studios-20th Century Fox Animation, he was a story artist on "Dr. Seuss Horton Hears a Who!" (2008) and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (2009).
Renaud wrote and did the storyboard for the animation short, "No Time for Nuts," based on Scrat the character in "Ice Age," and received an Oscar animated short nomination.
Renaud has a solid storytelling sensibility, and that is clearly evident in "DM2," which is in the contemporary feature animation tradition of pleasing youngsters and their parents and guardians, as well as teens, with quip-filled dialogue and sight gags.
This time, Gru (Steve Carell) has settled into dedicated domesticity, raising the three orphan girls who changed his heart in the original "DM."
Gru is recruited by Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent for the Anti-Villain League, to track down a new international villain.
Meanwhile, Gru's loyal Minions are being kidnapped and turned into Evil Minions.
There is a good mix of pop culture references in dialogue, plotline, scenes and soundtrack in "DM2." Songs include "Love's Theme," Love Unlimited Orchestra; "In the Summertime," Mungo Jerry; "Don't Stop the Party," Pitbull; and "YMCA," The Village People.
The characters are drawn with large heads, comparable to bobble head dolls. The characters' eyes are large, too, and have a porcelain quality to them, which enhances emotions. The characters have a plastic, three-dimensionality so ingratiating you want to buy the toy figures and product tie-ins.
There is lots of side business for each character in "DM2," including asides, gestures and reactions that give the film a depth and entertainment value lacking in many recent lackluster animation features.
Carell again invokes a vaguely eastern European pseudo-Slavic-Russian accent for Gru. His voice and the character are hilarious. Wiig, as Lucy, is the next most noteworthy among voices and characters.
The "DM2" voice talent includes Benjamin Bratt (Eduado-El Macho), Miranda Cosgrove (Margo), Russell Brand (Dr. Nefario), Ken Jeong (Floyd), Steve Coogan (Silas), Elsie Fisher (Agnes) and Kristen Schaal (Shannon).
Two quibbles: In the screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul ("Despicable Me," "Horton Hears a Who!"), the characterization and handling of the Eduardo character is insensitive with respect to Latinos and that of the Shannon is overly harsh with respect to young women.
Coffin voices several of the lead Minions, including Kevin, Bob, Stuart, additional Minions and Evil Minions. Renaud voices additional Minions, Evil Minions and Italian Waiter.
"Despicable Me 2" has the wackiness of a Warner Brothers Looney Tunes. It's silly summer movie fun for nearly the entire family.
"Despicable Me 2," MPAA Rated PG (Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children) for rude humor and mild action; Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family; Run time: 1 hr., 48 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Minions Movie Auditions are held at the top of the "Despicable Me 2" closing credits.
Box Office, July 19: "The Conjuring" scared up $41.5 million, to open at No. 1, dropping "Despicable Me 2" to No. 2, with $25 million and $276.1 million, three weeks, and keeping "Turbo" stuck at No. 3, with $21.5 million, for the weekend, and $31.2 million, since opening July 17.
4. "Grown Ups 2," $20 million, $79.5 million, two weeks; 5. "Red 2," $18.5 million, opening; 6. "Pacific Rim," $15.9 million, $68.2 million, two weeks; 7. "R.I.P.D," $12.7 million, opening; 8. "The Heat," $9.3 million, $129.2 million, four weeks; 9. "World War Z," $5.2 million, $186.9 million, five weeks; 10. "Monsters University," $5 million, $248.9 million, five weeks
Unreel: Aug. 2:
"2 Guns," R: Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington star in the action-comedy about a DEA agent and Naval intelligence officer who have been set up by the mob. Paula Patton and Edward James Olmos co-star.
"The Smurfs 2," PG: The Smurfs are in Paris to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel. Smurfette knows how the Naughties are turned into Smurfs. The voice talent in the animated feature includes that of Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry.
"The Spectacular Now," R: A high-school senior's philosophy is changed by a female student. Shailene Woodley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miles Teller, Kyler Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh star in the comedy-drama.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com. and the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein: email@example.com .
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes