Steve Carell

Characters Agnes, voiced by Elsie Fisher, and Gru, voiced by Steve Carell star in "Despicable Me 2." In the sequel, Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help get rid of a new super villain.  

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures | Daily Texan Staff

The first “Despicable Me” flick was a pleasant enough diversion, but the only thing that necessitated a sequel was the towering box office gross. “Despicable Me 2” is more of the same — a silly, entertaining bit of cotton candy whose predictable plot is salvaged by Steve Carell’s manic, memorable voice acting and a surprisingly adept sense of humor.

Picking up where “Despicable Me” left off, the sequel finds the formerly villainous Gru (Carell) happily being a single father to Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) and Edith (Dana Gaier). However, an upcoming Mothers’ Day pageant drives home how much the girls could use a woman in their lives, a situation which happily coincides with the arrival of Lucy (Kristen Wiig), an agent for the Anti-Villain League, who recruits Gru to help save the world.

The film’s first goal is to make its audience laugh, and it certainly succeeds there. While the first “Despicable Me” leaned a bit too heavily on the trio of young girls for its jokes (and heart), the sequel gives everyone a chance to shine. Carell gives a strong, heartfelt vocal performance, and plays wonderfully off the always-hilarious Wiig. Gru’s endless supply of minions is another reliable source of comedy, fully embodying the film’s adolescent sense of humor with their nonsensical way of speaking and constant titters and giggles.

Although the film never fails to elicit chuckles, is that enough? “Despicable Me 2” is predictable to a fault, coloring firmly inside the lines of what you’d expect from this sort of film, and it doesn’t even try to surprise the audience. The film is structured as something of a mystery, with Gru trying to track down a supervillain, but the film only bothers to pay attention to one suspect, making it pretty clear how things will unfold. Slightly more troubling is the slightly casual racism with which the film approaches its villain, who is little more than a stereotype in a funny mask.

“Despicable Me 2” is, just like the first, a flighty and fun trifle that more or less dissipates the minute the credits roll. The film’s saving grace is its strong comedic backbone, and it’s a smart move to give Gru’s minions their own film, a spinoff that’s teased in the closing credits. While the cast is game and very funny, and “Despicable Me 2” is never boring, it’s also never particularly engaging, content to let its plot play out with little creativity or surprise.

TV Tuesday

Steve Carell finally made his exit from NBC’s “The Office” last week and it’s difficult to fathom how the show will survive without him.

America said a tearful goodbye last Thursday to one of its most beloved television characters of all time: Michael Scott, regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton and lead of “The Office.”

For seven years, Steve Carell has been the emotional and comedic heart of “The Office,” successfully living up to and distancing the show from Ricky Gervais’s British original. As the years went on and “The Office” became one of NBC’s biggest hits, its world expanded with new settings and characters.

Through it all, Carell’s attention-seeking, obnoxious and somehow lovable Michael Scott grounded the show and linked the broadening ensemble together through his painfully embarrassing and ill-conceived attempts at making his the greatest and most tight-knit office in the world.

Memorable Michael Scott moments include his ultra-awkward job hosting the “Dundie” awards (complete with an “8 Mile” rap parody) way back in season two, and when he was the only office member to show up at timid little Pam’s art show, a rare moment of unselfish sweetness from Michael.

For Carell, it seems Hollywood has come calling. Increasing offers to do blockbuster film projects and the fading quality that comes with any long-lived show seem to have taken their toll. Last summer, Carell announced that this season of “The Office” would be his last.

Here’s where NBC made their big mistake. Rather than end the show as they should have with the bittersweet tearjerker of an episode “Goodbye Michael,” in which Michael Scott flies off to Colorado to marry the love of his life, NBC has decided the show must go on without Carell.

Financially, the decision makes sense. “The Office” is still one of NBC’s biggest hits well into its seventh season and it seems the network wants to pump the show for all it’s worth. From a storytelling perspective, it’s difficult to see how “The Office” will survive without Carell.

In terms of comedic value, “The Office” has been able to pull out a relatively funny seventh season. The storytelling has endured the inevitable for long-running shows: weak attempts at injecting excitement with new characters and increasingly ridiculous hijinks from week to week. The spark that once made the show a genius, runaway hit is slowly dying.

It almost seems rude to continue the show without Carell. It was his fantastic portrayal of the deeply flawed but beloved regional manager that made the US version of “The Office” so outstanding in the first place. To continue the show after his graceful departure does a disservice to Carell and to the show itself.

The remaining three episodes of the seventh season will ostensibly follow the search for Michael Scott’s replacement at Dunder-Mifflin, and NBC has pulled out all the stops in terms of end-of-season guest stars in addition to Will Ferrell, who has already been appearing as Michael’s temporary replacement.

The season finale will feature appearances from Ray Romano, Will Arnett, James Spader, Catherine Tate, Jim Carrey and Ricky Gervais, all apparently vying to be Scott’s replacement. Despite NBC’s assurances that “The Office” will continue to entertain without Carell, the addition of so many guest stars seems a desperate gesture by NBC, begging viewers to stick with “The Office” despite Carell’s imminent absence.

Even members of the show’s writing staff seem to be restless to leave “The Office.” In an interview with New York Magazine, Mindy Kaling, who writes much of the show and plays the office ditz Kelly Kapoor, hinted that she might be moving on to new projects at the end of the season. It seems even some of the show’s creators have begun to acknowledge “The Office” has begun to outstay its welcome.

As Michael Scott said goodbye to each of his employees, he gave to the portly Kevin a grotesque, pig-like caricature, trying in typical Michael Scott style to teach Kevin a lesson: “Don’t become a caricature.” The gesture seemed uncannily fitting. Michael might as well have been giving this warning to the show itself, which is in danger of becoming a parody of its former self.