Suddenly, minions are mighty.
The jabbering yellow sidekicks of Despicable Me 2 powered the animated family film to $82.5 million this weekend, handily winning the lucrative July Fourth holiday weekend, according to studio estimates from Hollywood.com.
The opening trounced Johnny Depp's The Lone Ranger, which limped through the holiday at $29.4 million.
Both films were released Wednesday, but that's the only similarity between the animated sequel and the $225 million Disney Western, which could become one of the year's biggest flops.
Through the first five days of release, Steve Carell's Despicable Me 2 has made $142.1 million, the highest five-day debut on record for an animated film. It eclipses 2010's Toy Story 3, which collected $141 million in its first five days.
The Lone Ranger, meanwhile, has come off the rails with a $48.8 million gross since Wednesday. Analysts had expected that number to be twice as big by the end of the weekend.
Critics and fans were decidedly on the minions' side. Three-fourths of the nation's critics recommended Despicable Me 2, and 89% of fans enjoyed it, according to pollsters Rottentomatoes.com. The movie earned an A from fans, according to CinemaScore.
Less than one in four critics gave The Lone Ranger a thumbs-up, compared with a mediocre 68% of fans, the site says.
The animated debut "bodes well for the minions spinoff" movie set for Dec. 19, 2014, says Tim Briody of Boxofficeprophets.com.
"It's hard to understate how fantastic this performance is," he says, noting that "Despicable Me 2 beat the opening of the 2010 original in just two days." The original opened to $56 million.
Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo says the franchise flourished with a canny marketing campaign.
"After being well-received by audiences at the time, Universal Pictures has done a nice job maintaining the Despicable brand in toy stores and in their theme parks," Subers says.
Though the franchise isn't as recognizable as the Toy Story series, Despicable has "gotten about as close as you can with only one movie," he says.
The Lone Ranger, meanwhile, could mark Disney's biggest flop since John Carter, last year's $250 million epic that managed just $73 million in total domestic sales.
The Melissa McCarthy cop comedy The Heat was third with $25 million, followed by Monsters University with $19.6 million.
The Brad Pitt zombie film World War Z was fifth with $18.2 million.
Full holiday weekend estimates are due Monday.
Despite Lone Ranger's stumble, summer continues to sizzle. Ticket sales, once down double-digits to last year's pace, have cut th