I liked Gru better when he was despicable, a Blofeld-sized supervillain who'd steal the moon until the orphans he's exploiting steal his heart. Gru starred in 2010's Despicable Me, voiced with Euro-evil panache by Steve Carell. That movie was a welcome addition to the animation gold rush and a sucker bet for a sequel.
Watching Gru going straight despite his arch instincts was fun. Now we have Despicable Me 2 and he's a changed man, a doting adoptive father, not even the movie's star. That would collectively be Gru's Minions, those two-tone time release capsules with goggles whose gibberish and pratfalls make children squeal with delight. One child equals two adults in box office math, so this way, Minions, to center stage.
They're funny, in a Madagascar penguins or Pizza Planet little green men sort of way, one-joke bit players whose appeal was underestimated before and overestimated now, former scene swipers presently having scenes and ad campaigns handed to them. They jump in each time Gru, a new screwball partner or his adorable adoptees do something interesting in Despicable Me 2. Butt out, Minions.
There's enough here for a nice little movie, anyway, even if Al Pacino didn't think so. He was hired to voice the movie's arch villain but dropped out due to "creative differences." I'm guessing the emphasis on Minions had something to do with it. Maybe Pacino didn't feel like mocking his Tony Montana accent as the luchador villain El Macho that Benjamin Bratt does well enough.
El Macho is plotting his usual world domination thing when Gru is recruited to assist his capture by the Anti-Villain League led by Silas Ramsbottom (big laugh for the kiddies there). It's a better use of Gru's time than dressing in drag for a birthday party, running a jellies start-up or being a parent. One daughter has no-mommy issues, another is discovering boys and thank goodness the third doesn't have a major problem because there's too much going on anyway.
Despicable Me 2 could drop any of those distractions in exchange for a few more minutes here and there with Kristen Wiig's sing-song neuroses as AVL agent Lucy Wilde. The logical extension of Gru's rehabilitation is finding someone who'll make him a better man, and a partner for parenthood he never expected. Wiig and Carell would make a terrific rom-com coupling in the flesh but their voices will have to suffice for now.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.