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Review: Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Directed by: Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon

Premise: Supervillain turned secret agent Gru (voice of Steve Carell) discovers he has a twin brother named Dru. He meets his estranged sibling and discovers the family secret. Meanwhile, supervillain Balthazar Bratt (voice of Trey Parker) plans to destroy Hollywood.

What Works: Despicable Me 3 is an improvement over the previous movie. The second film was a rehash of the first one and it largely pushed Gru and his adopted family aside for the sake of the Minions. The new film mostly corrects the mistakes of Despicable Me 2. It starts by returning the focus onto Gru’s family. He’s now married to Lucy (voice of Kristen Wiig) and formed a nuclear family. But domesticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and when Gru discovers that he has a more handsome and more successful twin brother he flirts with the idea of going back into the villain business. Meanwhile, Lucy struggles to connect with Gru’s daughters and the stepmom subplot is one of the better aspects of this film, recalling the family bonding that was so effective in the original picture. Despicable Me 3 also uses the Minions with some restraint. The little yellow creatures took over the last movie and since got their own spinoff film. The makers of Despicable Me 3 use the Minions sparingly and so they don’t wear out their welcome. The film also introduces a new supervillain, Balthazar Bratt. The new character is a 1980s sitcom child star turned evil and the movie has a lot of fun with 80s references. Whenever the villain is on screen Despicable Me 3 picks up. Balthazar Bratt is introduced in a terrific opening sequence that features high-energy action and some creative gags. Another impressive aspect of Despicable Me 3 is Steve Carell’s dual vocal performance as Gru and Dru. Carell voices both characters and they sound similar enough to be brothers but each character has his own distinct vocal style. Despicable Me 3 is also quite funny, certainly more so than the second movie, and at times it recaptures the joyful meanness that worked so well the first time around.

What Doesn’t: Despicable Me 3 is never as heartwarming or as creative as the original film. The 2010 movie had a unique visual style with inspired gadgets and vehicles. Its goofy sense of fun was juxtaposed with the story of Gru’s rehabilitation as he gave up the criminal life for the joys of fatherhood. The domestic storyline of the first Despicable Me was cliché but it was also effective and the original picture hit all of the populist buttons in the right order while being very entertaining. The third film never accomplishes that, at least not as well as its progenitor did. Part of the problem is a result of this being the third film in a series. Despicable Me was a surprise but after the second film, a Minion spinoff, and a glut of tie-in products and cross promotions, the franchise has outgrown its novelty. But even allowing for that, Despicable Me 3 presents very little that is new or interesting. The film also suffers from a story that is overstuffed. Gru and Lucy lose their jobs, the Minions abandon Gru and get into their own series of adventures, Gru meets his brother, and Lucy struggles with motherhood, all while supervillain Balthazar Bratt prepares an evil scheme. There’s so much going on in the movie that the focus is diverted. Whenever Despicable Me 3 comes close to achieving some kind of resonance or momentum, the filmmakers jerk the story to one of its other subplots. Issues that should be drawn out are resolved too quickly and the movie doesn’t have the substance that would make the ending really satisfying. Perhaps the biggest miscalculation is the disuse of the children. Gru’s relationship with his adopted kids was the crux of the original film but like Despicable Me 2 the children are once again pushed to the side and merely tag along on this adventure.

Bottom Line: Despicable Me 3 is enjoyable enough. The movie is mostly more of the same but it is an improvement over the second film. Despicable Me 3 is satisfactorily entertaining if little else.

Episode: #657 (July 23, 2017)