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A not-so-despicable sequel

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Despicable Me 2' offers plenty of fun

Movies for kids are pretty hit or miss in general. It seems like every time you buy a ticket, you've got about a 50/50 chance of getting a good one. And even if you do get a good one, that just means that there's going to be a sequel and that's when the law of diminishing returns raises its ugly, money-grubbing little head.

So it's a nice surprise when an animated follow-up manages to maintain some of the spirit of the original. 'Despicable Me 2' is definitely one such surprise.

We're reintroduced to Gru (Steve Carell, 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone'), the now-reformed supervillain who has gone straight, devoting his massive evil operation to the much more innocuous task of creating a line of jams and jellies, assisted as always by his ubiquitous minions and the increasingly-decrepit Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand, 'Rock of Ages').

Gru is also a doting single father, playing dad to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove, TV's 'iCarly'), Edith (Dana Geier, TV's '30 Rock') and Agnes (Elsie Fisher, 'Vertical'), dealing with birthday parties and boys and blind dates and the like.

But when a mysterious new villain makes the scene, Gru finds himself pulled back into the game. He is recruited by the Anti-Villain League, a super-secret organization devoted to fighting evil, to help combat the menace. They want the ex-villain to help them go after this new foe, so they partner him up with Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig, 'Girl Most Likely') and send them both undercover at the local mall.

The two find themselves at odds initially, but as they work together they gradually grow more comfortable with one another. And as they make their way through the mall, a number of suspects start to spring up. Gru and Lucy need to find a way past their personal concerns and stop this unknown adversary before he unleashes a truly spectacular and unstoppable - menace on the world.

The concern going into this movie was just how they would make the sequel work. The first movie was all about Gru's evolution, the transition from selfish villain to devoted daddy. So how would this second film create enough conflict to be interesting? Happily, Gru the father is just as entertaining as Gru the supervillain. 

And there are, as always, the minions. Their gibberish-spouting antics have moved into the spotlight in a big way with this film and that's a good thing. Their endless goofy chatter is funny to kids and adults alike; now that they're playing a more central role to the story, they are even more present. And it works especially the delightful musical moments at the end.

Steve Carrell wears this character comfortably; he's clearly having loads of fun throughout. That sense of fun really propels everything forward; it allows the audience to accept Gru's transition from bad guy to good (well, goodish) guy without issue. Carrell and Wiig are great together; the chemistry between them is rich and textured. The comedic dynamic here is just phenomenal she is a wonderful addition to the crew.

The supporting cast does good work as well. Brand's Dr. Nefario is as crusty as ever, while the girls are unflappably adorable. Benjamin Bratt ('Snitch'), Ken Jeong ('The Hangover III') and Steve Coogan ('The Look of Love') are all engaging in supporting roles.

While 'Despicable Me 2' doesn't quite measure up to the original, it is still a first-rate piece of family entertainment. The characterizations are excellent and the laughs are abundant. There's plenty of fun to be had here. 

4 out of 5

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