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DESPICABLE ME 3: 2 ½ STARS. “The real stars are the jellybean shaped minions.”

Once upon a time Gru (Steve Carrell) was a chrome-domed supervillain complete with minions, an evil genius assistant, a panda skin rug in his lair and a plan to shrink the moon but that was before Margo, Edith and Agnes three orphan girls forced him to rethink his diabolical dealings and become a family man.

The theme of family continued into “Despicable Me 2” which saw him as a doting single father working for the Anti Villain League with partner and love interest Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig).

The family feel extends into the latest film, “Despicable Me 3.” As the story resumes Gru is fired from his job at the Anti-Villain League when he fails to apprehend thief (and former 80s child star) Balthazar Bratt (“South Park’s” Trey Parker) following a daring diamond robbery.

With time on his hands Gru and family visit his long lost brother, the extravagantly accented Dru (also voiced by Carrell) in the far off island of Freedonia. “Shortly after you and your brother were born, your father and I divorced, and we each took one son,” explains Gru’s mother (Julie Andrews). “Obviously, I got second pick.”

As the brothers bond, Bratt gets back to work, this time managing to steal the giant diamond. He plans to use the gem to power the giant robot and get his revenge. “This time Hollywood I cancel you and all the losers who rejected me!”

As if that wasn’t enough plot, the Minions, the curious clan of yellow jellybean-shaped troublemakers who were once Gru’s henchmen, are arrested after invading a TV talent show called “Sing!” As Dru convinces Gru to take another run at Bratt and steal back the diamond, however, the Minions escape jail and lend a hand.

“Despicable Me 3” isn’t exactly just an excuse to trot out the million dollar Minions but it’s hard to imagine what it would be like without them. Gru and Company are fun enough but three movies in, plus a Minion standalone, the human characters have become familiar, predictable. The real stars are the jellybean shaped minions who are still silly, inspired and just stupid enough to make kids laugh uncontrollably.

The animation is wild ‘n wacky and there are several set pieces, like the henchmen singing Gilbert and Sullivan in Minionese, that are inventive but overall the film raises a smile when it is in silly mode but is less successful when it defaults to being a capital ‘F’ family film, which is far too often.

Adults of a certain age will enjoy Bratt’s endless 80s homages—he even has an evil army called the Bratt Pack—but make no mistake, this movie belongs to Gru’s brightly coloured little companions.

“Despicable Me 3” isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t have the spark of the other films in the series. That lack of spark is amplified by a blatant sequel-ready ending that suggests this is simply a set up to a further adventure; an appetizer for a main course yet to come. As such, instead of leaving me hungry for more it took away my appetite for any more Gru stories.

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