By Jack Dignan
Universal hit a gold mine when Despicable Me hit theatres back in 2010. It was warm, funny, a box office hit, received critical claim and started a Minion craze all throughout the globe. People were obsessed. I can’t even being to imagine the profits made off of the film’s merchandise. Naturally, a sequel wasn’t too far behind, as well as a more-recent spinoff focusing on the origins of the beloved (and equally hated) Minions. Personally, neither of those follow-ups worked for me. They failed to capture the magic of the first movie, and the trend was looking to continue with Despicable Me 3. Sadly, this proved to be true. Despicable Me 3 is every bit a cash grab as it looked like it was going to be.
Moody bald protagonist Gru (Steve Carell) is at the top of his game. No longer a super villain, and now married to the lovely Lucy (Kristen Wiig), Gru is one of the highest ranked agents at the Anti-Villain League. That is until he lets the notorious child movie star turned real life villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) get away once again. Gru, and consequently Lucy as well, are both fired. Soon, news arrives that Gru secretly has a twin brother who was separated from him early into his infancy. He’s ecstatic. Gru and Lucy, as well as their three adopted kids Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel), venture out to meet their long lost relative. His name is Dru, also voiced by Steve Carell, and he’s lived a life of villainy, much like Gru used to, and he wishes to go on one last heist with his newly found brother.
Part of the reason the original Despicable Me worked so well was due to its charming and loveable script. There was warmth and sincerity buried inside. It was funny and original, full of characters that audiences instantly fell in love with. Despicable Me 3 frails in comparison to the installments that came before it. Gone is the love and passion put into that brilliant first film. Remnants of it can be found throughout, but the overall film fails to work. Everything is a forced gag, used to amuse smaller kids in a failed attempt at putting together a fun, exciting plot. It’s an incredibly simple story, yet the writers have over-stuffed it with an abundance of unbearable plotlines and side characters that get nothing more than a few lines each.
The central focus is on Gru and his brother Dru. The fundamentals of the story, while generic, predictable and often full of conveniences, work pretty well for the most part. Their relationship slowly starts to blossom, however not without the necessary complications. Scenes of the two bonding can be fun, but tiresome. They are, essentially, the same person, and that’s the film’s biggest joke. While separated from birth, they grew up living parallel lives. Each of them had a varying quality of success, but they mostly followed a similar path. Yet something about them is noticeably different. Dru’s a little more charming and sociable, while Gru lives a more stable lifestyle. Their sibling relationship, and the overall themes of acceptance, makes for some of the best aspects of the movie.
It’s everything else that pretty much sucks. Don’t get me wrong, Despicable Me 3 isn’t awful, but you’re not going to remember it one year from now. The animation retains that bright and colourful style Illumination is all too well known for, and while it still feels like they’re animating the way they did back in 2010, there’s nothing wrong with it. They’re not making technical leaps like Disney or Pixar are doing, but they’re instead continuing what they do best, even if most of their movies range between being fine or bad. Kids, being the target audience, won’t really notice this, though. The quiet matinee session I attended didn’t get any laughs from its restless audience, but diehard fans of the franchise may get a kick or two out of it. It could be that the crowds today simply weren’t into it, or perhaps it’s the kids who are getting tired of seeing the Minions make the same jokes 4 films in a row.
In fact, the biggest issue this movie faces is with the whole Minion storyline. They’re shoehorned in for the sake of being shoehorned in. Gru’s lack of villainy has caused uproar and they’ve quit their job, but once that happens, their presence is entirely inconsequential. Audiences are forced to witness their downfall and arrest, leading to a short, fun but equally dumb prison sequence that’s been featured heavily in the marketing. The Minions, much like Gru’s kids, are off on their own quite pointless adventure for no purpose other than having them in the movie. You can’t sell as many Minion toys if the Minions aren’t in the film. That seems to be about the only mindset behind their presence, and while true, the whole thing could’ve been a lot more focused had they been removed.
The cast of Despicable Me 3 are having a ball, especially new addition Trey Parker who plays the exciting, musical villain, but they don’t allow audiences to have nearly as much fun. This franchise, like so many recently, has run its course. The box office intake will likely feature a lot of zeros, and the same can be said for merchandising profits, but that’s all this series is going to be from now on. It’s going to remain Illumination’s only major cash cow. Minions 2 is set for release in three years time so don’t expect those little yellow dim sims to be going away anytime soon. They’re here to stay, and audiences are here to suffer.
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