The latest in the Despicable Me franchise seems more like a film created out of necessity rather than to enhance. Despicable Me 3 was no doubt produced because it’s going to be a huge box office hit, but it doesn’t have enough substance to stand on its own, acting more as a film that sets up any eventual sequels.
It’s been over three years since we last saw Gru, Lucy and the girls and they are adjusting well to the non-villain lifestyle. Grucy, the portmanteau that Lucy gives the couple (Gru isn’t a fan), is on a mission for the AVL (Anti-Villain League) to stop Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing the world’s largest diamond. Bratt is a former child actor from the ’80s (shoulder pads and all) who had his own TV show where he played a young supervillain. But once puberty hit, he was no longer a Hollywood darling. His popularity tanked, his show got cancelled, and now he’s looking for revenge against Hollywood.
Having failed to capture Bratt, Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are subsequently fired from the AVL. Even though he lost his job, Gru refuses to return to villainy, which results in most of the Minions leaving him. The next day, Gru learns he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell). Dru tells Gru that their father was actually a legendary villain and that they need to continue the family legacy of villainy, but Gru is unwilling to do so. But don’t forget about Bratt! He’s still stirring up trouble using his evil expanding bubble gum and it’s up to Gru to try and stop him.
While the other two films before this one both had solid plots and could stand on their own, Despicable Me 3 suffers from spreading itself too thin. The film can’t decide which of it’s multiple storylines is the most important, which ones would work as sub-plots, and which ones should have been excluded all together. There’s the twin story, then there’s a villain who is stuck in the ’80s, the Minions going to jail, and the side story of Lucy trying to step into the role of “mom”. It’s almost exhausting to try and keep up.
But plot aside, Despicable Me 3 isn’t terrible. It’s not as clever as its predecessors, but it has it’s moments and at times the adults in the audience were cracking up harder than the children. The Minions are still welcome characters in the franchise that are guaranteed to get laughs. For a brief moment I kind of wanted more Minions, but then I remembered we already got Minions and then decided that there was just the right amount of Minions in this film. (I can’t remember if this was shown in another movie, but in this one we see that the Minions have toes. I know they have fingers, but the toe revelation was truly shocking to me.) Another piece of familiarity comes from Pharrell’s music. While there’s no summer earworm like 2013’s “Happy” in this film, there’s something inherently comforting when you hear his voice – it’s just another reminder that these are still the same characters you’ve grown to love from the first film.
At the end of the day, the best way to summarize how most people will feel about Despicable Me 3 is with a conversation I overheard between a father and his son at the theatre.
Boy, around age 10: Do you think they’re going to make, like, seven more of these movies?
Dad: To be honest, it’s probably going to be whether or not this one makes money.
Boy: I bet a lot of people will see this movie. *Long pause* I guess we also have to keep coming to see the rest of them.
Kind of reluctant to see any more Despicable Me films, but also kind of happy there might be more Despicable Me films.