Gru, right, and his long lost brother Dru, both voiced by Steve Carell are up to some shenanigans in "Despicable Me 3."

Gru, right, and his long lost brother Dru, both voiced by Steve Carell are up to some shenanigans in "Despicable Me 3."

/Illumination and Universal Pictures

Whatever the mood, you'll find yourself in a better one after watching Despicable Me 3

The exhilarating '80s music, a revivified Gru (Steve Carell) and a lesson in family all join to form a mosh pit of a movie that still makes you ultimately smile.

The tone is set even before the opening title card with Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) -- his wife and now-fellow Anti-Villain League agent -- hot on the trail of Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Bratt is a quite literal child star gone bad (or method): He's become his character from a cheesy '80s TV show called Evil Bratt, in which he played a kid bent on destruction. Tagline? "I've been a bad boy."

Once puberty hit, Bratt's show was canceled and so was he. He now wants to do to Hollywood what it did to him, chew it up and spit it out, all while wearing the clothes and stuck in the era that Hollywood handed to him. Meta, much?

Bratt is a McGuffin, though a mullet-coiffed, dancing-machine one. 

The real story here is family. Gru made his own with the Minions, then his girls and his new wife. But now comes a revelation: Gru has a shiny, happy brother, with seemingly everything Gru ever wanted, especially that shampoo-commercial hair. 

But his brother Dru (also Steve Carell) harbors a dark secret. He wants to be bad. But, as bad as Gru can sometimes be at being good, his brother is even worse at being bad. He pressures Gru to keep living up to a legacy that Gru didn't even realize he was perpetuating.

That's enough for two movies, but then there are subplots, some contrived, and borrowed plot devices -- I see you Parent Trap -- that are everywhere and nowhere at once. For the emotional payoff, they hardly seem worth the time; really, a search for a unicorn? Then again, what may seem peripatetic to grownups serves as distraction and diversion to little ones.

One can hardly write the word distraction without following with mention of the Minions, who find their forces reduced early after Gru rebuffs their calls to "go dark" after the encounter with Bratt leaves the family unemployed. That allows the film to get in a Star Wars gag -- and to breathe without having to cater to them and their proud fan base; rudderless, the Minions end up in jail for much of the movie. (Perhaps a timeout is in order after their own movie in 2015?)

Picked apart, Despicable Me 3 can be fun and off-putting. First, it never takes itself that seriously, and neither should its audience. Then, even the in jokes have in jokes.

The filmmakers may have stuffed 3 with everything and the kitchen sink, perhaps drawing inspiration from the decade to which it pays homage, or maybe they just felt as if the end is nigh. But then, it also sets up a Spy vs. Spy-like continuation, if anyone is so inclined. 

Taken as a whole, though, the movie is what fans expect: a light summer snack that's ultimately Despicable.

Despicable Me 3 (B)

Directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin. PG (for action and rude humor). 91 mins. In wide release.

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