It’s downright despicable what Illumination Entertainment has done to the once-promising “Despicable Me” franchise. The third entry arrives in no better shape than either the second movie or its spinoff, “Minions.” Despite a double performance by the always-entertaining Steve Carell, “Despicable Me 3” is, well, uninspired — except for the 80s music that’ll keep Mom and Dad awake. Madonna’s “Get into the Groove” is always welcome.

Directors and franchise veterans, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon and Kyle Balda, working from a script by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, give the story slapdash treatment — it’s a little bit of this and little of that, all wrapped up neatly by the time the credits roll. (Don’t bother sticking around, either. There is no bonus scene). With so little happening on screen, it’s clear that this entry exists for merchandising and theme park purposes only. At least they keep the pace brisk.

The gist of the flimsy narrative has Gru (Carell) learning he has a long-lost twin, Dru. They meet, then team up to take down Gru’s nemesis, Balthazar Bratt (“South Park’s” Trey Parker), a washed-up child star who, as an adult, continues to be obsessed with the character he played in the 80s. Lucy (Kristen Wiig) navigates the bumps of step-motherhood to Gru’s adopted children, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and the youngest, Agnes (Nev Scharrel), who is still chasing unicorns. Aren’t we all?

Meanwhile, the Minions — those lovable and silly yellow nuggets — have had it with Gru going straight, fleeing in search of more evil pastures. It was a stupid idea to separate them. The movie feels disjointed whenever the Minions show up in random asides (auditioning for a singing competition, in jail, beach party, etc.) that don’t advance the story. Gru doesn’t have much interaction with his daughters, either. Those scenes were always delightful, funny and touching in giving the story heft. This time out, it’s mostly Gru and his twin, Dru. After Gru and Lucy lose their jobs, they fly to Freedonia to meet Dru. He lives in an opulent mansion, having made millions off the family pig farm that’s a front for a supervillain outfit their late father ran. The bumbling Dru needs Gru to teach him the ways of the wicked. All roads eventually lead to Hollywood to stop Bratt and his mullet and shoulder pads from leveling the city that rejected him. Milton’s Jenny Slate also co-stars as Valerie Da Vinci, a member of the Anti-Villain League.

The colors might be bright and the animation is, per usual, spectacular. It’s a marvel how the water looks so fluid and real. But given how technologically savvy most animation houses are now, there has to be more to a movie than just looks. “Despicable Me” doesn’t have enough silly gags, or dance offs, or a beating heart. It’s nothing more than mechanical storytelling.

Gru and the Minions were once a good, wacky hang. And since the end sets up another sequel, let’s hope the fourth film gets the franchise back on track. Even though Carell — owner of the Marshfield Hills General Store — pulls double duty, this third entry is less than half the fun of the original.

— Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“Despicable Me 3”
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan.
(PG PG for action and rude humor)
Grade: C