If you loved the original "Despicable Me," you'll probably like "Despicable Me 2" quite a lot.
But full-blown love might be tough to muster for this fast-paced, frequently funny, but decidedly dumbed-down animated 3-D action comedy.
"Despicable Me 2"★ ★ ★
Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong, Steve Coogan
Directed by: Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin
Other: A Universal Pictures release. Rated PG. 98 minutes
This sequel, robustly directed (again) by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, brings back Steve Carell and his tolerable Russian accent as Gru, the ambitious, stiletto-nosed master villain who plotted to prove himself the baddest of the bad by stealing the very moon itself.
Now, having transitioned "From Super Bad to Super Dad" (the original movie's tagline), Gru has become a domestic bore as the proper father figure to his three cute wards Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher).
Gru's once grandiose ambitions of world conquest have been scaled down to making jellies and jams for a living.
His quiet existence gets shaken and stirred when a svelte and limber secret agent named Lucy (Kristen Wiig, the orphanage manager in the first "Despicable Me") recruits the reluctant Gru to be a spy for the AVL, the Anti-Villain League.
Turns out that someone has stolen a secret formula that can turn ordinary people into purple "indestructible killers" with untamable coiffures.
Lucy and her AVL associates have traced the formula to someplace in the Paradise Mall, a shopping center resembling a theme park.
Gru suspects that the owner of a Mexican restaurant (Benjamin Bratt) might be uber-villain El Macho, who allegedly perished while riding a shark on a rocket fired into a volcano.
Even if the owner isn't El Macho, Gru feels threatened by his son Antonio (Moises Arias) putting the moves on smitten Margo.
Cue the overprotective father figure jokes.
Even more than its 2010 predecessor, "Despicable Me 2" substitutes Saturday-morning cartoon slapstick for wit and repartee in a movie clearly pitched to kids and not so much to adults.
This time around, Gru's Minions -- those wacky little gibberish-spouting Tater Tots with eyeballs (some with one, some two) -- receive greater screen time to perform more crowd-pleasing shtick.
In a nod to the classic "Gremlins," the Minions become infected with the secret formula, turning them into purple hordes of biting, attacking monsters with much more personality than the zombies in "World War Z."
Still, during a major assault sequence, the camera inexplicably takes the point-of-view of an attacking purple Minion. Why do the directors want us viewers to identify with the marauding monsters here?
Stick around during the end credits to watch the minions auditioning for unspecified movie roles.
Yep, the amusing Tots have their own movie in the works. Stay tuned.