Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Oh brother.

It’s hard to believe that Despicable Me (2010) started out as a fun, little spy spoof before those small, yellow, simple-minded Minions took over, edging their way into the pop culture zeitgeist — their faces appearing on everything from backpacks and lunch boxes to smartphone cases and pajamas — eventually becoming the official mascots of the series. With that said, Despicable Me’s success can (probably) be attributed to those cylinder-shaped dwarfs — the lemon-colored lil’ guys responsible for selling a ton of movie tickets and merchandise, propelling the property into the billion-dollar club. Franchise fatigue started to kick in when the Minion’s self-titled spinoff hit screens in 2015, their tiresome stand-alone escapade proving that the Despicable Me saga was beginning to run out of steam. Sadly, the folks over at Universal didn’t seem to think so as lo and behold, here we are with another Despicable Me movie, those pesky Minions showing up before the feature even begins, blabbering in minionese and farting about (quite literally) in Illumination Entertainment’s logo.

… trading their denim for stripes

Directed by Kyle Balda — the man behind the Minions (2015) movie — Eric Guillon and original creator Pierre Coffin (who also voices the aforementioned tic tacs), Despicable Me 3 thankfully features more Gru, in the form of his polar opposite twin brother, Dru (who’s a central part of this third go-around), and less Minion mayhem, their comic relief vignettes taking place outside of the central storyline. If you can recall, the first Despicable Me had a clever premise that followed a criminal mastermind, Felonius Gru (Steve Carell), who was forced to re-evaluate his evildoer ways after adopting three young orphans, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel), whose affection changed him for the better. The second movie felt like a natural progression of things with Gru falling in love with his Anti-Villain League (AVL) partner, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), whom he eventually marries. This third adventure, however, feels like the most contrived of the bunch, the narrative, for the first time, treading into shonky soap opera territory.

Our story picks up when Gru (who’s now working for the AVL) is tracking new baddie on the scene Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) — a former child-star from the ’80s who’s clinging onto the past along with its retro fashion. Once famous for starring in a popular TV show called Evil Bratt, where he played a kid villain hell-bent on world destruction, Balthazar turned to a life of crime after his showbiz career went south, Evil Bratt abruptly canceled after the youngin lost his appeal during puberty. Alas, when the flamboyant Bratt evades capture, both Gru and his wife Lucy are fired from the AVL, this harsh prenatally issued out by their stern new boss Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate). Just when things seem to have hit rock bottom for Gru, a stranger shows up at his home, informing him that his estranged dad had passed away and that he had a ‘secret’ twin brother named Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell) who very much wanted to meet him.

Grucy to the Rescue!

Excited about the prospect of having a sibling, Gru takes Lucy and the girls to his father’s European homeland of Freedonia (not a real place) to meet his bro, only to discover that Dru is everything that Gru isn’t. You see, Gru is overly cynical, Dr. Evil bald and kinda unemployed while Dru, on the other hand, has been blessed with luscious Chris Hemsworth locks, is pretty easy-going and has inherited all of their late father’s fortune, along with his humungous mansion and thriving pig farm. Overwhelmed by a feeling of inferiority, Gru is surprised to learn that Dru has a secret desire of his own, and that was to follow in their dad’s despicable footsteps and become a kick-ass villain. When Balthazar steals the world’s most expensive diamond, which he intends to use to re-create the earth-shattering events from his favorite episode of Evil Bratt (so that he can take revenge on Hollywood), Gru joins forces with his broskie for one last heist — Gru hoping to get his job at the AVL back and Dru to prove that he has what it takes to be a super-villain — the pair planning to steal back the diamond at the center of Bratt’s hair-brained scheme.

Written by returning scribes Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, Despicable Me 3 is crammed with superfluous B-plots — bits and pieces that, while amusing, veer way too far off the beaten track, proving that this series may be on its last legs. We have a side story concerning Agnes and her search for a real-life unicorn, an arc that sees Lucy try to become the perfect mother for Gru’s three daughters while masking her own insecurities, and some other stuff that involves Margo and a traditional Freedonian dance — and I haven’t even got to the Minions yet!

Banana Remix!

With their reformed master no longer interested in his old despicable ways, Gru’s banana-loving followers are left with bupkis to do, making them feel about as useful as Donald Trump’s comb. Hence, the Minions (led by Mel) revolt and go on strike, embarking on their own zany adventure, leaving Dave and Jerry at home — the pair accidentally missing the protest. Despicable Me 3 takes the rest of the Spanish-sounding blobs to a studio lot in Hollywood, California, where they crash an American Idol-esque singing competition, get arrested then escape via a jailbreak sequence set to the rhythm of Pharrell Williams’ ‘Freedom’ — the Minions serving as irreverent distractions just like Chris Wedge’s acorn-obsessed Scrat from the Ice Age films. Needless to say, Despicable Me 3 delivers exactly what patrons have come to expect from Illumination’s computer-animated comedy, and that is Looney Tunes-type action and crazy sight gags — we even get a quip that sees the gaudy Balthazar nab the flick’s sparkly McGuffin while disguised in a Gérard Depardieu fat suit.

Steve Carell does an excellent job voicing both Gru and his twin Dru, the 54-year old working extra hard to infuse each brother with a distinct, recognizable personality. The cast standout, however, is South Park (1997) co-creator Trey Parker who voices the purple jumpsuit-wearing Balthazar, a baddie who uses bubble-gum bombs and explosive Rubik’s Cubes as artillery and break-dances his way through heists and action sequences so that filmmakers can incorporate tracks such as A-Ha’s ‘Take on Me,’ Madonna’s ‘Into the Groove’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ into their film — either way, the flashy Bratt makes for a pretty fun foe. Actor-comedian Russell Brand must have been unavailable for voice recording this time around, seeing as his Dr. Nefario spends the entire movie frozen in carbonite, while the wonderful Julie Andrews, Shrek 2 (2004), reprises her role as Gru’s mom, whom he visits at a lavish pool location.

‘Who put that there?’

Although wildly uneven, Despicable Me 3 mostly works — the flick set to amuse youngsters (and the young at heart) with its fast-paced array of gorgeously rendered tricks. Unlike its predecessors before it, this third Despicable outing lacks a strong emotional core, meaning that it would probably be wise to leave the series at a trilogy. Concluding with a less-than-subtle open-ended finale, it’s obvious that Illumination may have missed that memo, filmmakers paving the way for a bombardment of never-ending sequels and spinoffs. Stupa! Stupa!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Despicable Me 3 is released through Universal Pictures Australia