Lovable anti-hero villain Gru is back in "Despicable Me 2." But the film's first big problem is that he's not despicable any more.
Gru (Steve Carell) is now a loving dad to his three adopted daughters — Margo, Agnes and Edith — and has converted his evil lab into a jam and jelly factory, making him about as undespicable as possible.
His biggest concern is making sure his daughters are happy. And his biggest fear is jumping into the dating pool, since he has never had much luck with women.
Gru is offered a chance to get back into the action by becoming a spy for the Anti-Villain League, whose leaders figure it takes a villain to catch a villain.
A super criminal has stolen a potion that turns otherwise passive creatures into big, purple monsters that will eat anything in their path. The AVL wants Gru to find the villain before he unleashes these monsters on the world.
The spy angle is paper thin, and the movie doesn't really make any effort to parody spy movies either. If you judge it as a spy comedy, then "Despicable Me 2" wouldn't even crack the Top 50.
Fortunately, the spy gig is basically just a device to give Gru something to do. This is really about the next chapter in Gru's life as he moves forward with his daughters, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and his army of little yellow minions.
The minions really steal the show: They are much more central to the plot than before and have most of the funny moments. Nefario, unfortunately, is used only to move a couple of plot points; we miss seeing the amusing inventions caused by his hearing problem.
The new despicable one is a super villain named El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), but as super villains go, he doesn't really break any new ground. He's no Vector, and certainly no match for Gru.
We also meet newby spy Lucy (Kristin Wiig), who first recruits Gru, then becomes his partner and ultimately his romantic interest.
If you were lukewarm on the original, then you should pass on the less-inspired sequel. But if, like many of us, you found the original to be funny and charming, then you'll want to see it just to revisit these characters.
It's tough to follow a movie that was wildly successful, fun and original. Much like "Monsters University," this sequel can't stand up to the first installment, but it still manages to be a fun time at the movies.
After all, any movie that can work in a clever "Love Boat" reference can't be too bad.