‘Despicable Me 2′ Fends Off ‘Grown Ups,’ ‘Pacific Rim’ At Box Office

Animated sequel is #1 at the box office again this week, taking in $44.8 million.

Giant monsters, giant robots and even Adam Sandler and all of his buddies fell before the might of little yellow minions over the weekend. “Despicable Me 2″ was the #1 movie in America for a second time, narrowly edging out newcomer “Grown Ups 2″ and decisively beating big-budget sci-fi action contender “Pacific Rim,” which settled for a #3 debut. It was one of the more unpredictable box office races in recent memory, with all three films switching places on the scorecard all weekend long.

In the end, animated sequel “Despicable Me 2″ took the #1 spot with an estimated $44.8 million. Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Wiig and 2012 MTV Movie Awards host Russell Brand, the movie has generated great reviews, big success abroad (it was #1 overseas as well) and managed to earn $229.2 million domestically in just 12 days.

Adam Sandler had never made a sequel before “Grown Ups 2,” which reunited him with many of his frequent collaborators from his Happy Madison Productions films, “Saturday Night Live” or both. Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and even Taylor Lautner (!) lent their star power to the comedy, but it was Sandler who had the most on the line. The animated “Hotel Transylvania,” featuring the voices of Sandler, James and Spade (among others) made nearly $150 million last year. But Sandler needed a live-action hit on the heels of the subpar box-office business of “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy.”

Film critics hated “Grown Ups 2″ (it sat at a lowly 7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer as it arrived in theaters), but audiences came out to the tune of $42.5 million, awarding “Grownups 2″ the #2 spot and Sandler the second-biggest opening of his career, behind the 2005 remake of “The Longest Yard.”

“Grown Ups 2″ had a reported production budget of around $80 million, just a few million less than “Despicable Me 2.” The weekend’s #3 movie, however, was a big-budget gamble along the lines of “After Earth” and last weekend’s disaster “The Lone Ranger.” Like those movies, “Pacific Rim” isn’t a sequel. “After Earth” had Will Smith and “The Lone Ranger” had Johnny Depp, but “Pacific Rim” doesn’t boast any A-list stars. It generated a ton of buzz as early as last year’s San Diego Comic-Con; enthusiasm online reached a fever pitch leading into the film’s release. Unfortunately, that equated to a mere $38.3 million debut.

That figure would be viewed as more of a success had the film’s production budget been less than the reported $190 million. Rolling into the weekend, ever-prolific filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro had even spoken with MTV News about sequel possibilities. The budget wasn’t as large as the $215 million spent on “Ranger,” but it was actually more than Smith’s sci-fi bomb. On the plus side, “Pacific Rim” gave genre-beloved Del Toro his biggest opening weekend ever (the “Hellboy” sequel made a few million less in 2008). Still, as BoxOfficeMojo.com pointed out, the opening was more akin to “Oblivion” than “World War Z.”

Buddy cop comedy “The Heat” was #4 in its third weekend with another $14 million, giving the Melissa McCarthy/ Sandra Bullock team-up a $112.4 million total. “The Lone Ranger” dropped from #2 all the way to #5 with just $11.1 million. With just $71 million domestically in the past two weeks, Disney is no doubt looking ahead to the six major markets where the Western has yet to open overseas. Thus far, it’s made $48 million outside of North America, for a grand total of $119.1 million.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Despicable Me 2.”