Reel Critics: 'Despicable' is delectable

Any blockbuster hit is sure to be reincarnated in today's Hollywood. Dual directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud teamed up make over $500 million with the animated hit "Despicable Me" in 2010. They repeat the success of their first collaboration with a rollicking new sequel that kicked "The Lone Ranger's" butt at the box office last weekend.

Also using the same writers, "Despicable Me 2" is a seamless continuation of the original. Steve Carell again voices the pointy-nosed Gru, the reformed villain now behaving as an upstanding citizen. The three charming girls he adopted in the first film now live in his house and influence his life for the better.

His googly-eyed yellow minions parade around like so many elves in Santa's workshop. Undercover intrigue in a shopping mall drives the plot and provides comic observations of smart kids and modern life. A sharp woman secret agent, voiced by Kristen Wiig, provides a romantic foil for Gru.

But like the first movie, it's the clever dialogue, great humor and snappy action that keep both youngsters and their parents laughing and cheering.


Ranger can stay 'Lone'

Older generations fondly recall the Lone Ranger's adventures on radio and/or that TV show of the '50s. He was a hero, a masked man astride a beautiful white horse with a stoic Indian sidekick named Tonto.

But thanks to modern day bombast and Johnny Depp, the new "Lone Ranger" might just as well be titled "Pirates of the Plains." Poor Armie Hammer, as the title character, gets short shrift as Depp's Tonto mugs for the camera in a performance as ridiculous as his makeup.

Only a climactic train chase, thrillingly set to the "William Tell Overture," gave us any sense of old-time heroics and bravado. But it's an interminable wait of over two hours to get there.

But don't lose hope — there are excellent films out now worth your money:

"The Kings of Summer" is a fresh and quirky coming-of-age tale of three guys who build a ramshackle house deep in the woods. There's a glorious sense of freedom as they try to live off the land as "free men" far from their annoying parents. This is a wonderful film that will have you nostalgic for youth.

The documentary "20 Feet from Stardom" gives us an inside look at the unsung hero of music, the backup singer. From doo-wop to soul to rock, these kings and queens of harmony add so much to the songs we know and love, and yet so often are taken for granted.

"20 Feet" puts faces and stories — fascinating, poignant and funny — with the glorious voices we should all recognize. My audience applauded throughout, and I think you will too.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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