Despicable Me 3 review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
“Well, it was still cute.”
This was the shrugging consensus I heard of the adults that left the theater after seeing Despicable Me 3, the most tired, ill-thought and mundane minion picture to date. But haven’t the Despicable Me movies always been cute? What is the point of continuing on with these movies if they have nothing else to offer? Illumination Entertainment can only ride that easy merchandising train for so long and their carelessness with the latest picture reveals that they’re willing to run this franchise into the ground.
The stories at play this time around feel ripped straight from a Saturday morning cartoon on its last legs, as though it has already jumped the shark. No, wait, wasn’t there a shark in Despicable Me 2? How prophetically telling. Anyway, Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are adjusting to being both newlyweds with kids and co-workers as secret agents for the Anti Villain League. What an interesting scenario that unfortunately will never be explored. The couple are dispatched to bring in the evil Bratt (Trey Parker), a 1980s child star that clings to the nostalgia of the era so hard he becomes an 80s themed villain. Using expanding bubblegum and exploding Rubik’s cubes to snatch a diamond, his appeal wears thin after the first scene. It must have also not done much for the writers either considering how they retreat from 1980s gags to 1980s references.
Later, Gru will discover he has a twin brother by the name of Dru (also Steve Carell). Having recently been fired from the AVL for failing to foil Bratt, Gru decides to take up villainy once again with his brother that desperately wants to prove himself as a criminal. This could lead to some interesting hi-jinks as Dru is far too chipper and loving in comparison to Gru’s stand-offish nature, but, again, no luck. There are far too many other plots at play here with Lucy trying to be a stricter mother, Agnes trying to find a unicorn in the woods and Margo trying to ward off an obsessed boy. Oh, and the AVL has a new boss that hates Gru. Oh, also, Dru lives on a secluded island that celebrates a weird cheese festival.
Did I forget anything? Ah, the minions! How could I forget the most iconic mascots of this runaway franchise? It’s easy to do so with a script so bloated and tired that it forgets to give the yellow pills something to do. Sick of Gru’s goody-goody lifestyle change, the collective quits and goes out on their own to be bad guys. This lands them in prison where they become the toughest prisoners for some reason. But, wait, I thought minions needed a master to survive? Or do minions also have amnesia?
There isn’t much of anything I can recommend about this third installment, even on the most base levels of entertainment. One aspect I always admired about Illumination Entertainment was their ability to cast actors that would provide voices you wouldn’t expect. I could hardly tell Russell Brand was voicing a mad scientist or that Jon Hamm was an eccentric 60s henchman. But it’s obvious that Trey Parker is doing the voice of the villain as he just can’t shake that South Park tone. It’s even worse when considering that his character of Bratt is supposed to be a master of disguise and yet he puts on his recognizable voices that do little to mask his identity. Similarly, Steve Carell's portrayal of Dru is nothing special; just the same voice as Gru with a higher volume.
I could forgive such a clunky and corporately soulless script if it were just funny, but nothing sticks here. The 80s themed villain becomes more dated than his references, the twin brother angle is poorly constructed and the various subplots of family come off so quick and tacky without any culmination in the climax. I have never been a big fan of the Despicable Me movies as I always found them to be just a cute excuse for action and coos, built more for selling Happy Meals than being a tale of silly antics and family. I can only hope that the most devout of audiences will pick up on the dwindling ideas of this franchise that are more apparent now than ever before.
Sure, kids will still gain a few laughs as this series continues on with crude jokes, but I’m afraid the adults drug along for these movies will be left in the dust.