All images courtesy of Universal Pictures
Just when you thought Pharrell’s Despicable Me anthem “Happy” was out of your life forever Universal knocks you upside your head with a bag full of Minions and gives you DESPICABLE ME 3. All of your favorites are back for the third installment of the popular animated franchise: Gru (Steve Carell), his new wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), “It’s so FLUFFY!” Agnes (Nev Scharrel) and those adorable jibber-jabberin’ yellow Minions. Of course, they are up to the same ol’ fun-loving “despicable” shenanigans — “same ol'” being the operative keyword. As lively and technically flawless the animation is, the movie feels phoned in and flat.
Veteran Despicable Me director Pierre Coffin helms the movie alongside Eric Guillion and Kyle Balda from a script by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, all of whom are both well-versed in the Despicable universe. The team brings us back to Gru and Lucy’s new life together as they are saving the world as members of the Anti-Villain League (a.k.a. the AVL). At the same time, they are trying to get used to life as a family with the girls and the Minions. Their lives are all thrown for a loop when Gru and Lucy fail to capture ’80s-themed supervillain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). The two are asked to resign from the AVL and they are left jobless. As a result, the Minions try to convince Gru to go back to his villainous ways and when he refuses, they leave him. On the bright side, Gru finds out that he has a long-lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell) and when they meet, he also tries to convince him to return to his supervillain roots with one last heist. All the ingredients are in place, but when combined, it lacks the exciting flavor and energy of its Despicable predecessors.
Without a doubt, kids will enjoy the movie because, well, it’s a Despicable Me movie. It has the flash and animated shine of the franchise, but underneath all of that is nothing much — which is disappointing considering the joy and heart in the original (not to mention that super-fun Universal Studios ride). Nothing was really horrible about this movie and nothing was really fantastic. Even so, it’s blandness is what stands out, therefore making it a disappointing addition to a fun franchise.
The movie focuses on family with Gru meeting his brother Dru and Lucy testing her maternal skills with the girls, but all of it is so…boring. There’s not enough there to get all up in your feelings and tug at your heartstrings. It’s color-by-number storytelling that doesn’t get the job done. The most exciting addition that gives the movie life is the new supervillain Balthazar Bratt, a former self-centered, washed-up childhood star from the ’80s who is hellbent on destroying Hollywood. He’s fun, hilarious, and has that panache and creativity that embodies the Despicable brand. Balthazar brings a jolt of silliness to the movie, while all the other characters, including the less-likable carbon copy of Gru, Dru, does their job with the exact minimum amount of effort.
A formulaic storyline isn’t always a bad thing if done right and with a fresh angle — and Despicable Me 3 could have benefited from leaning more into formula rather than putting a heavy emphasis on a long-lost brother narrative or a Minions storyline that could have been saved for their standalone movie or a web short. In fact, this was the first time that I was annoyed by the Minions. Usually, I’m all for their fart-gun absurdity, but in this movie, they were testing my last nerve. In any case, a straightforward Gru vs. a new bad guy central storyline would have been more favorable for this installment. Even though the other plot points had the greatest intentions to bring forth feel-good family fun, it all seemed so thrown together and goes through the motions to give us the illusion of a good Despicable Me movie. Perhaps the franchise that has grown stale and it’s finally time for Gru and his Minions to retire — but based on the ending, we’re probably going to get a Despicable Me 4 whether we want it or not.
Running time: 90 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
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Dino-Ray Ramos | Film Critic