Steve Carell Pulls Double Duty in ‘Despicable Me 3′

While still enjoyable for younger viewers, the third entry in the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise offers diminishing returns for adults accompanying those little ones to the theater.

In “Despicable Me 3” Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are a happy working couple, raising three girls and stopping bad guys in their tracks. But when Gru fails to stop 80s style villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, breaking loose from the “South Park” franchise for a bit), he’s fired from the Anti-Villain League. As he and Lucy struggle to find their next move, a messenger arrives to inform him of the existence of his long-lost twin brother Dru (also Carell). Dru is rich, happy-go-lucky and blessed with a gorgeous head of hair — Gru’s total opposite. The brothers bond until Dru reveals he wants to follow in the family’s villainous footsteps, leaving Gru torn between his newfound brother and his desire to get back on the side of good.

And that’s just the main plot. There are several side plots, including youngest daughter Agnes’ quest to find a unicorn, Lucy’s maternal woes and the minions’ desire to get back in the villainy game as well. Yes, the minions essentially get their own short story within the movie. At first they’re angry with Gru for being a good guy, so they strike out on their own, stumble onto a singing game show, end up in prison for a hot minute, and then stage a daring escape to rejoin their leader for the final showdown. Used in these small doses, their antics and gibberish are much more tolerable, and even enjoyable (their minion-ish rendition of “Modern Major General” is pretty darn cute).

Carell is charming as always as Gru, and makes twin brother Dru’s voice similar yet different enough to be amusing when they argue with each other. There’s a cute scene where they pretend to switch places, fooling no one of course, but it’s a testament to Carell’s talent to perform as each brother impersonating the other in that silly accent.

Wiig is fine, but not given much to do in this sequel, and even the adorable girls are underutilized in favor of Carell talking with himself. Parker gets a little more to do as Bratt, a literal 80s brat with a grudge against Hollywood. The character is probably more amusing for adults, with almost every move accompanied by an 80s classic (Michael Jackson, Madonna and Olivia Newton-John hits all pop up on the soundtrack), but most of the references probably sail over kids’ heads. It also feels like his character was meant to be satirically critical of Hollywood, but other than his grudge over his canceled show, it never really goes anywhere. Perhaps the sharpest piece of satire is a billboard spotted in Hollywood bearing a poster for a movie called “Onions” with three onions wearing glasses, looking suspiciously similar to the minions.

Overall, “Despicable Me 3” does its best to entertain, but ultimately feels like an extended episode of a cartoon. Parents and kindly babysitters be prepared to chuckle, but not guffaw.

Despicable Me 3” is in theaters nationwide June 30.