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The spy-spoofing mayhem continues in Despicable Me 2, a sequel that also offers some decent character development for a PG-rated family-oriented animated movie.

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Minions whoop it up in 3D
Minions whoop it up in 3D

At the end of the first episode, the megalomaniacal Gru (Steve Carell, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) had finally found his soft side and adopted three rambunctious little girls. Naturally, the next phase for any world-dominating bad guy turned goodie-two-shoes is to settle down into a steady relationship with a significant other and live la vida domestic.

Who’d think a man of Gru’s nefarious stature and manipulative mindset would have trouble finding himself a date, beyond the fact that he’s a fairly ugly cuss? It turns out Gru is downright gun shy when it comes to the ladies (he was psychologically scarred on the playground back in grade school) and it doesn’t really help that his neighbors want to set him up with less-than-ideal matches and even his kids are getting into the act with an online dating account.

Wait a minute! Where’s the action?

Oh yeah. That whole dating thing is a subplot that fairly obviously dovetails into the main story.

The world needs Gru’s help to thwart a devilish plan by Mr. Macho (Benjamin Bratt, Snitch) and the Anti-Villain League has enlisted his help, a la Hannibal Lecter, to track down the bad guy and save the planet. To help him out, AVL’s butt-kicking Agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig, who voiced Miss Hattie in Despicable Me) is sent as his handler, accomplice, and gosh, maybe – just maybe – something more.

Bake My Day

Despicable Me 2 is a solid sequel that manages to work on a few different levels. It’s got the spy spoofing antics, including plays on the genre’s staples. As Lucy advises Gru, it’s always bad form to announce your weapon before you use it. Zap! That’s the lipstick TASER. Introduced by Lucy after Gru feels its awesome discomfort. Well played, Lucy. Well played.

And there are spiffy vehicles, like Lucy’s submersible call (straight out of The Spy Who Loved Me) and there’s one giant, floating magnet that can pull up an entire Arctic exploration station.

If the kids aren’t into spies (but what kid isn’t?), there’s the family story of a doting father of three looking for love in a seemingly heartless world. That part provides the movie’s warm fuzzies for those into warm fuzzies.

But, most importantly, Despicable Me 2 brings back Gru’s minions and involves them in a major plot point. Minions rule. Those yellow byproducts of Raving Rabbids plied with multiple servings of Twinkies hit it out of the park.

The Village Minions

It’s reasonable to worry about the creative viability and vitality of an animated sequel. The Shrek series steadily devolved from the first crowd-pleaser to the fourth crowd-chaser. Cars 2 took the annoying Jar-Jar Binks equivalent from Cars and made him the lead character. Even the highly-revered Toy Story series took to schmaltz and disingenuous sentimentality in the stunningly overrated Toy Story 3. Certainly there are reasons why, 9 years later, there’s still no follow-up to The Incredibles.

So, given that context, Despicable Me 2 works very well.

Yes, there are a couple jokes carried over from Despicable Me, but overall this sequel avoids the rehash syndrome that has felled loads of sequels in the past. For better or worse, the fart gun is back, this time in a 21 fart-gun salute to Dr. Nefario’s resignation. As far as fart jokes go, returning screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio up the ante from the first movie’s use of the gas-a-strophic device and they tack on an extra rim shot at one poor minion’s expense. It’s funny. It works. Well played Paul and Daurio. Well played.

Bless those minions. They’re a hoot of pure, unencumbered nonsense and they do provide loads of silly entertainment. While it’s not necessary to see the movie in 3D, the end credits – as with the first movie – turn into a 3D clinic with some excellent effects as the minions attempt to make their own movie. Party favors, bubbles, and other cleverness abounds in what amounts to the most crowd-pleasing end credits of the summer.