As a father of a seven-year-old, I’ve watched a lot of animated films over the last few years. One of the pleasant surprises was Despicable Me from Illumination Entertainment which, while it came out the year my son was born, was one we tried with him when he was about three. Gru and his Minions have been favorites of my son ever since.
Thus, going to see Despicable Me 3 on opening night was a natural. And while it did have several laugh-out-loud moments, it doesn’t quite live up to the standards of the previous two iterations in the series. It is, however, just a little more consistent than the one spin-off from the series, Minions.
The movie opens with Gru [Steve Carell] and Lucy [Kristen Wiig] attempting to stop the heist of the world’s largest diamond by former child-star-turned-villain, Balthazar Bratt [Trey Parker]. Their semi-success leads to them being made an example of by the AVL’s (Anti-Villain League’s) new CEO, Kellyanne Conway lookalike and all-around nasty person Valerie Da Vinci [Jenny Slate]. Before the couple can sink too far into their unemployed lifestyle, they’re pulled away by a surprise revelation: Gru has a twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell). They pack up the family and head off to meet this long-lost sibling.
Turns out that Dru is something of a wheeler-dealer in the pork industry in his small European country of Freedonia, but he longs to join the actual family business – super-villainy – and Gru is just the man to help him.
While DM3 is gorgeously animated (as with all Illumination films so far), it is trying to do a few too many things at once. We have the family reunion plot, the super-villain plot (centered on the under-utilized Balthazar Bratt), the nervous new mother plot, the innocent child plot, the tween plot, and, seemingly out of place, the Minion plot. Any one or two of these could have worked well to create an entertaining and cohesive film, but it felt as though the Illumination team (which, incidentally, was made up of no fewer than three directors and two writers for this outing) wanted to cram together two or three movies’ worth of story into an hour and a half.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the movie, and my seven-year-old gave it his full and complete endorsement. But it does suffer from some franchise bloat in interesting ways. It’s been four years since the last DM movie, with the highly lucrative and successful (although not critically well-received) Minions coming in the interim. Due to that movie’s success, there were decisions in DM3 that really make it feel as though the directors were trying not only to do DM3, but also Minions 2 at the same time, with the twain never quite coming together effectively. Much as the Penguins of Madagascar‘s popularity forced changes on Madagascar 3, Illumination appears to be feeling the same pressures. There is a Minions sequel scheduled for 2020, and I feel that they would have been better served here to maintain a focus on Gru and his story, which is what this branch of the series is supposedly about.
Overall, while DM3 is a better experience than Minions, it is still the least of the Despicable Me movies to this point which, like Gru’s bubblegum bathing suit from the opening sequence, tries to cram too many plots into too small a package.
Steve’s Rating: (6 / 10)
A movie that lacks focus, but will still be an entertaining and age appropriate night out for families with young children.
Directors: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (written by)
Starring: Steve Carell, Kristin Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Runtime: 1 hr. 30 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG