The first “Despicable Me” was, if not a revelation, quite enjoyable. It was exceptionally funny, featured a clever plot, and had these crazy yellow things that spoke in a funny fashion (I love the Minions, if you’re against them you may be better off not continuing with this review).
The second film was… less enjoyable. Our heroic villain, Gru (Steve Carell), got a love interest in Lucy (Kristen Wiig), abandoned villainy once and for all, and outside of a nacho sombrero there just wasn’t much new or clever about it (the Minions were still great but the evil purple ones felt a tad much).
Then those love yellow guys got a clever little prequel spinoff. “Minions” was cute, amusing, and worked more than it didn’t even if it never reached stellar heights. Plus, the Gru story seemed pretty played out after the second movie so it wasn’t bad to not have him as the center of a movie
Now though, sadly, we’re back to the main franchise and that means more Gru. Yes, the former villain is back, Lucy is back, the girls—Edith (Dana Gaier), Agnes (Nev Scharrel replacing Elsie Fisher from the first two films), and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove)—are back, and the Minions are back. Plus there’s a new bad guy, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), and Gru has a twin brother, Dru (also Carell), whom he never knew about.
It is too much and not enough at the same time.
The basic flaw in this film–which is directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, with Eric Gillian as co-director, from a script by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio–is that it has an obsessive need to find something for everyone to do, no matter how small and unimportant and unexplored the “something” itself is in the finished film. So, Lucy is worried about how to be a mother to the girls, Margo has a problem with a boy, Agnes and Edith go hunting unicorns, Balthazar Bratt gets a full backstory explaining his current villainy and ’80s obsession, the Minions quit, and Gru & Dru have to learn how to get along. That is a whole lot of story to get out in 90 minutes (including credits), and too much of it feels either rushed and irrelevant.
It may be a toss-up as to whether Balthazar or Gru’s story is given more time in this entry in “Despicable Me 3,” however, neither is particularly intriguing. Balthazar is a one-note villain — every joke with him is related to the fact that he was originally a popular actor on a TV show. Perhaps interestingly, Gru being separated at a young age from a brother he soon completely forgot about actually feels vaguely like an ’80s sitcom plot, but there movie doesn’t make the connection.
Certainly more time is spent on Gru and Dru than, say, the search for the unicorn, but it is completely uninteresting. One wears dark clothes, one wears light clothes; one is bald, one has luxurious blonde hair. One is inept at everything, the other is only inept at some things. Even the other characters in the film appear bored by the brothers’ learning to spend time with one another and exploring their similarities/differences.
As you may suspect from having read the above, were I forced to choose a highlight of the movie, it would be those lovable yellow things, the Minions. Their ability to instantly perform a perfectly choreographed update to a Gilbert & Sullivan tune is to be envied. The way water appears on their skin in the rain or a shower is unquestionably the animated peak of the movie – it is gorgeous. And, perhaps because their portion of the movie is kept brief, they are funny throughout.
Should “Despicable Me 3” prove successful at the box office there will undoubtedly be another follow-up and even if I didn’t enjoy this entry, I look forward to seeing that one. Over the course of the franchise, Gru and his adopted children have had some interesting moments and entered the hearts of many and I would love to see a return to form. This isn’t it.
photo credit: Universal Studios