By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Lovable villain Gru is back as a doting father in "Despicable Me 2," but while he swaps his villainous world domination schemes for princess parties, his yellow, spiky-haired Minions rustle up trouble in the film.
"Despicable Me 2," out in U.S. theaters on Wednesday, features Steve Carell again as Gru, who is now a full-time single father to three adopted daughters. Gru has become a spy for an anti-villain league to track down another evil mastermind.
The small goggle-wearing Minions, Gru's band of devoted little workers, get more screen time for their song-and-dance numbers and slapstick antics in the sequel.
Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who co-wrote both "Despicable Me" films, told Reuters that they consciously made an effort to include more Minions, who speak a made-up language called "Minionese," in the storyline this time around.
"The people have spoken. They love the Minions. We made a decision to incorporate the Minions much more into the plot in this film so that we can not only spend time with them, but give them more to do," Daurio said.
Gru's character has come a long way from a freeze-ray gun-wielding, menacing villain. In this film, he deals with his eldest daughter's first romance and he finds an unlikely love interest, played by Kristen Wiig.
But Daurio and Paul said they kept Gru's devious side.
"He can still do all the things we wish we could do, whether it's spraying the annoying neighbor with a hose or threatening a little boy who likes his daughter. He still gets to be nasty, but his evilness is on a different scale now," Daurio said.
MARKETING TO A CULT AUDIENCE
"Despicable Me" became a surprise blockbuster in 2010, raking in more than $543 million at the worldwide box office and becoming the 10th biggest animated film, according to movie tracking site BoxOfficeMojo.com.
"Despicable Me 2" grossed $50 million at the worldwide box office after opening overseas last week. Industry experts project the film can make between $110 million and $130 million at the North American box office over the five-day holiday weekend for U.S. Independence Day.
The film found a cult audience following outside of its targeted demographic of young children.
Film studio Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp., has found novel ways of promoting "Despicable Me 2." Carell dressed up as Gru to appear on "The Ellen Show" in May. A clip of his appearance was viewed more than 2.7 million times on YouTube.
A Minion blimp, aptly named the "despicablimp," has been floating from New York to Los Angeles, and the studio has partnered with Facebook to promote virtual stickers for fans to share online.
Carell, 50, also credited the film's urban soundtrack, composed by R&B star Pharrell Williams, for bringing an unique edge to the film.
"It's not kid music per se, it's current, it's modern and I think it gives the movie ... an edge. Kids could potentially like really good modern music ... it doesn't have to sound like kid music to be in a kid movie," Carell said.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Stacey Joyce)