Not being all that fond of animation, and liking sequels even less, it's hard to explain why I'm a such a pushover for "Despicable Me 2."
But then again, the movie itself is pretty hard to explain. While lots of the characters are more or less human (making allowances for bizarre facial features and body types), the protagonist Gru has a bird beak, scary eyes, the sleek physique of a land shark, and a Russian accent straight out of a melodrama.
In Steve Carrell's hands - or voice - Gru is pure delight, making the film feel less like a sequel than a delicious second helping. Gru started the first "Despicable" movie as an arch fiend intent on hijacking the moon, until three orphan girls taught him his heart was greater than his hate. He starts this film as their doting dad, with a secret agent named Lucy adding to the love fest. The ever-terrific Kristen Wiig does her part to make Gru and Lucy this summer's most romantic movie couple.
The loveable minions steal the show in the box office hit, “Despicable Me 2.”
Universal Pictures photo
There are more eccentric heroes and villains with strange accents, voiced by Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong and Steve Coogan. And then there are Gru's minions, the yellow blobs with goggles for their one or two eyes, who speak no recognizable language, yet still get lots of the movie's best jokes.
While the storyline once again goes for grand-scale, sci-fi world-saving action, it's the small touches that endear. The minions are there to distract the kids, but it's the adults who are laughing out loud all the way through the film.
At the height of the dumb summer movie season, "Despicable Me's" ingenuity, wit, French-flavored whimsy - and its top spot at the box office - renew faith in good intentions in the greedy industry.
As lovable as the imaginary "Despicable" life forms may be, I'm still surrounded by actual critters as our Montana vacation continues. This week featured a car trip to Jackson Hole, Wyo., with our granddaughters and their parents as our traveling companions. Three-year-old Lilie is already pretty verbal; 1-year-old Viv makes do with her own language. But barreling along at 80 mph under the big sky, a bit of their innocent wonder tinted the view through the windshield.
The natural grandeur is taken for granted, especially after you leave the Interstate and head for the jagged snow-capped Tetons on the horizon. But the landscape's rugged beauty is part invitation, part demand that the folks here live large, whether they're daredevil sportsmen, square-jawed farmers, crow-footed cowboys or mountain men like Beaver Dick - a Teton legend equally skilled as trapper, Indian interpreter, Yellowstone explorer or hunting guide for Teddy Roosevelt.
In Teton Village just outside Jackson, we enjoy the rustic Rocky Mountain elegance of the Four Seasons, where Lilie steps out onto the balcony, looks over the golden aspen leaves shimmering in the breeze under hang gliders and hot-air balloons dotting the sky, and exclaims, "I can see the whole universe!"
The ski slopes become the domain of mountain bikers in the summer months. A free gondola ride up the mountain puts you on the lookout for indigenous Wyoming wildlife like moose, bears, magpies or Cheneys.
One morning we take the girls on our backs up the one-mile hike to the overlook above Phelps Lake, a pristine oval mirror framed by trees from this height.
Despite the grade, it's an easy hike, and although the trail is full of people, they're mostly friendly. Conversations with strangers ensue. At the summit, we talk to a young Frenchman, now living in Manhattan, who's showing the Rockies to his parents visiting from France.
When he hears we're from Hawaii, he asks if the geography is similar.
Here the land is huge, ringing the water, I tell him. In Hawaii, the water is huge, ringing the land.
But it's the same beautiful planet.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org