A MEETING with actor Steve Carell wouldn't be complete without a laugh or two, and sure enough within the first minute he's got me in stitches.
The 50-year-old may be the star of Despicable Me 2, but he is definitely not the main one. Instead, it's the cute, googly-eyed, indecipherable and mad little Minions that steal the spotlight in the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2010 animation.
"What are you saying?" Carell says, putting on a stern face. "You come in and you throw that in my face. It's the Minions this and the Minions that."
Smiling, he adds: "There's no competing. I saw the first movie with my kids, and what did they love the most? Not Dad, or what Dad had done, it was the Minions.
"I honestly can't deny that they are, by far, the star of this movie. They are funny, ridiculous, and physical and violent in a fun, benign way, but also incredibly loveable."
The Minions, voiced by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, are set to steal even more of the limelight.
"A year from now, they're getting their own film. They're already making it," says Carell.
In Despicable Me 2, produced again by Chris Meledandri, former super-villain Gru is attempting to turn over a new leaf and turn his back on crime, focusing on being a devoted dad to the three orphan girls – Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).
"I'm a parent with two little kids, and I identified with the story in the first film because it was honest in its depiction. Having kids completely changes a person's life, in all the best ways," Carell explains.
"Here's a guy who, in the first movie, was evil, and a genius at all things nefarious, then these three little girls come into his life and it changes him.
"This one is an extension of that – he's a great dad but he has all sorts of complications to deal with."
Those complications include his eldest child Margo becoming aware of boys.
Carell admits his two children – 12-year-old Annie and Johnny, 9 – encouraged him to take the role, but they weren't the sole reason.
"It's definitely something that they enjoy," he says. "But more than that, it's a fun character and a very sweet story."
Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig joins Carell on the animated adventure as secret agent Lucy, alongside Russell Brand as Gru's mad scientist sidekick Dr Nefario, Benjamin Bratt (charismatic restaurant owner Eduardo) and Ken Jeong (outlandish wig-maker Floyd).
"I've been a fan of Kristen for years," says Carell. "From the first time I saw her on Saturday Night Live, I think she's brilliant."
The Massachusetts-born actor does get to act with Wiig in person on the upcoming Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, where he reprises his role as Brick Tamland.
Carell clearly enjoyed reuniting with his co-stars in the sequel, including Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate.
"It was really fun. We spent two months laughing together. I haven't laughed that hard every day since the first movie," he says.
"I hope the finished film will be as funny. It seemed really funny to us when we were shooting it so we'll see."