The third film in Illumination’s flagship franchise comes with no surprises. DESPICABLE ME 3 is as formulaic as a children’s animated movie can get. This isn’t to say it’s a garbage film, but it’s awfully predictable. DESPICABLE ME 3 (Or DESPICABLE M3, if you will) is a rehash of fart jokes and physical humor. As someone who has seen neither DESPICABLE ME 2 or MINIONS, it’s hard to say how the threequel compares. But as a standalone film, it’s quite simple. Neither astoundingly good or bad, DESPICABLE ME 3 merely exists. Kids who go see the film are certain to enjoy the exploits of Gru and his small yellow friends. However, rewatching the original film is a better use of one’s time.
DESPICABLE ME 3 begins with Gru’s expulsion from the Anti-Villain League. After a Minion coalition strikes out on their own, Gru is contacted by his long lost twin brother. Dru, Gru’s brother, is a clueless and goofy Gru lookalike, only with a full head of hair. Dru pleads with Gru to teach him the ways of villainy, so that they may continue the family tradition. Gru agrees, but only so he can get revenge on new villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). From there, the film is a series of goofy, predicable action sequences.
Everything about the film feels like a retread. Dru’s relationship with Gru is a lot like the dynamic between Gru and Lucy. The children are barely visible, set aside for the brother relationship. It’s odd that the film would push away its strongest emotional dynamic for double Steve Carrell. In fact, a lot of the movie feels like a distraction from the main story. It’s unsurprising that the Minions, who got their own movie, are given too much screen time. But the fact that every other storyline feels extraneous makes the movie weaker. DESPICABLE ME 3 feels like a series of shorts stitched together.
There’s strangely too much going on. Despite having a simple premise, the film tries packing in several other narratives. There’s a relatively strong central storyline with Gru meeting his brother. However, it becomes bogged down with the several side plots. Lucy struggling to be a mother is only semi-resolved by yelling at a foreigner. Agnes’ quest for a unicorn is just a way to remind viewers of her catchphrase “fluffy.” The arrival of a new boss (Jenny Slate) at the AVL has no real bearing on the action. It just serves as a reminder of how good Slate was in ZOOTOPIA. Not to mention the randomly introduced – and quickly dropped – Margo romance plot. With so many stories, DESPICABLE ME 3 loses focus on its primary story.
While the film tries juggling multiple storylines, the central plot works well enough. As annoying as Carrell’s dual performance is, Gru’s moral struggle is engaging. It works specifically well when playing off of Parker’s nostalgia-heavy Bratt. Bratt is a former child actor, who turned to villainy when his super-villain TV show was cancelled. The vocal performance of Parker, and the physicality of his animated persona, plays really well. As far as superhero tales go, the nostalgia gimmick feels right at home in a Batman film. At the core of DESPICABLE ME 3 is a solid animated action flick.
While DESPICABLE M3 has elements that work, it mimics the previous films without enough reinvention. There’s not enough in the threequel to make it worth watching over the original. That doesn’t make it garbage – it just makes it a franchise film. Considering just how many movies Illumination has churned out, it’s commendable that the film is watchable. There’s still some heart and humor in DESPICABLE ME 3 – it’s just harder to find. But as far as this reporter is concerned, anything’s better than a MINIONS sequel.
DESPICABLE ME 3 comes out in theaters this Friday, June 30th. It stars Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, and Trey Parker.