REVIEW — “Despicable Me 3”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the first Despicable Me took the world by storm and unleashed the phenomenon that are the Minions into pop culture. A sequel and a spin-off later, we have Despicable Me 3, which follows Gru (voiced by the always wonderful Steve Carell) beginning to finally get the hang of the family life – his marriage with Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is going great, his daughters continue to love him, the Minions make sure that there is hardly ever a dull moment, and his job as a secret agent continues to keep him busy and distracted from his old life as a villain. This changes once he’s fired from his job due to his inability to stop a disgraced 80’s television star turned villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing a famously valuable diamond. Things also get complicated once Gru finds out he has a long-lost, twin brother named Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell) that is itching to become a villain himself. Does this sound like an episode of a television show that is getting tired yet?
Despicable Me 3 is surprisingly an anomaly of a movie. It really represents a lot of the things that I hate about sequels nowadays and why I believe fatigue is one of the most harmful things that can hit the film industry – but it is also so relentlessly harmless and has so many genuine laughs and adorable moments that it’s hard to actually be harsh on it. This isn’t a bad film, it’s not a great one.. it’s barely even a film at all. It’s roughly 90 minutes of slightly expanding the stories of characters we’ve met over the past few films, with a villain simply there to provide laughs and a foil for Gru to take on in the third act while balancing his family drama, and constantly cut back to the Minions and their hijinks – and none of this is bad at all! In fact, most of it is pretty funny. After the really lame Minions movie, it was nice to see them return to more of a contemporary setting alongside Gru and the girls. That film oversaturated the little yellow guys, so to see them literally take over a prison within a sheer 90 minutes here was fairly amusing. I was also found Trey Parker’s 80’s obsessed, constantly dancing, weirdly meta villain to be one of the highlights of the film that provided the biggest laughs.
The most pleasant surprises of the film is the small story of Lucy trying to become a mother to her three step daughters. This doesn’t have as much of a focus as most of the other plot lines they have going on simultaneously, but they develop the situation enough throughout the course of the film that it has a surprising emotional resonance by the time it ends. Since that familial subplot payed off really well, I was surprised that the story between Gru and Dru, which had much more focus and time put into it, was not nearly as emotionally compelling or entertaining to watch. Steve Carell continues to kill it with his voice work in this franchise, but I was surprised at how little I cared for the brother – I didn’t feel strongly either way towards him, and could honestly care less if he shows up in future installments that are inevitably in the pipeline right now.
This is a hard film to review – because it’s hard to critique something that is so senselessly giddy about its own world and characters, and light on plot. It’s hard to repeatedly find different ways to tell you that it’s just totally fine and harmless. Despicable Me 3 is a completely watchable, decently amusing film in the moment – but lacks the same amount of sincerity that was put into the first two installments of the franchise, which hurts the films chances of becoming a memorable sequel or stand-alone film in its own right. Take the kiddos if they’re begging you to do-so, and I promise you will have a decent time for 90 minutes.. but if you have no pre-established obligations to see it this weekend, I’d recommend just checking out Baby Driver instead and catching up with this by the time Despicable Me 4 is released in the near-future. 3/5.