Former supervillain Gru (Carell) is now concentrating on being a full-time dad to the three orphans he has adopted, but he’s called into action by Agent Lucy Wilde (Wiig) and the Anti-Villain League to investigate the theft of a top-secret lab.
It’s all very well renouncing the villainy business and recasting yourself as a devoted father of three girls, but what next? That’s the dilemma facing Steve Carell’s Gru as we rejoin him here, adjusting to a world of children’s parties and soccer moms while trying to retool his evil empire towards the production of jams and jellies. It’s clearly a relief when he’s called back into action by Steve Coogan’s Silas Ramsbottom and something called the Anti-Villain League to investigate the theft of an entire lab and its monster-creating serum.
Of course, that plot is barely the skeleton of this shaggy-dog story, which sags in the middle before racing towards an entertaining conclusion. Gru also has to cope (badly) as one daughter wishes he’d find her a mother and another takes her first teetering steps into the dating arena. There’s a generally baffling segment where Gru is sent undercover in a mall to try to figure out which shop owner has the stolen goods — a proposition that barely even makes sense by kids’ videogame standards — but the best moments see the tragically insecure Gru finally take a risk with Kristen Wiig’s winsome Agent Wilde, a highly competent and enthusiastic member of the AVL.
Then, of course, there are the Minions, the yellow happy pills who reliably reduce child cinemagoers to puddles of giggles. The biggest laughs of the film, at least beyond Carell’s outrageous accent, come from the Minions’ looney-tunes, strangely benign mutual violence. Their role has been beefed up ahead of their own spin-off movie coming next; by comparison, the villain of the piece barely gets a look-in, and two of Gru’s daughters are affectionately neglected. His assistants’ dominance is a little unfair to Gru himself — he’s a good enough character that a more focused script and stronger story might make him an icon in his own right — but it’s hard to quibble with the likable distractions that surround him.
It falters in the middle and hesitates unnecessarily in setting up the love story, but Gru still has charm and kids will adore the Minions.