Despicable Me 2 Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Despicable Me 2 Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Improving upon the serviceable but disappointingly safe computer animated Steve Carrell family film about a supervillain finding purpose through fatherhood, Despicable Me 2 is playful where its predecessor was annoying, despite increased harping upon the sanctity of the family unit.

Retired from the villain's life, Groo (Carrell) is trying to make a go of a legitimate business, developing and hawking a line of jams and jellies. On the domestic end, he joyously attends to the three adopted daughters that thawed his cold heart while fending off matchmaking attempts by a nosey neighbour, as a single old man raising three young girls doesn't sit quite right with the average citizen.

Right on cue, an ideal love interest arrives, in the form of a sassy secret agent. Voiced by Kristen Wiig, Lucy shows up to introduce Groo to the Anti-Villain League, which is basically an MI8 analogy. They want to draft Groo into their ranks for his practical knowledge of criminal behaviour, in hopes he can help them track down whoever stole an Arctic research facility using a giant magnet. Groo teams with Lucy, going undercover at a high-tech shopping mall and investigating a few unsavoury suspects.

The filmmakers miss a golden opportunity to cycle through a colourful rogue's gallery of villains. Instead, they limit their focus to two suspects, completely underutilizing Ken Jeong in the process. The script is more concerned with the romance between Groo and Lucy (she's an admirer of his criminal genius and his way with kids gets her maternal juices flowing), Anges's need for a mommy (it's a good thing Lucy is an all-purpose family unit stabilizer) and Margo's growing interest in boys –—what better way to terrorize a father than with a suave Latin lothario pursuing his little girl?

While the simplistic family comedy unfolds in the foreground, a perfunctory nefarious plot involving those loveable (or annoying, depending on your level of maturity) yellow minions keeps a steady supply of sight gags flowing. Carrell's vaguely European caricature of a grumpy outsider isn't his finest work, so it's a boon to have Wiig's subtler comedic chops counterbalancing the broad slapstick powering most of the movie.

As with the first film, Pharrell Williams is on hand to provide beautifully sunny soul music and his offerings are even better this time around, injecting the perfect sense of unabashed glee right when it's required. The same can't be said of the 3D. There are a few instances of eye-popping visuals but, for the most part, the field of depth is barely utilized.

Young kids and undiscerning parents will undoubtedly be delighted by this passing diversion, but those hoping for animated filmmaking on par with the material regularly pumped out by Pixar or Dreamworks will be left with Groo balls. (Universal)