Despicable Me 3 | Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda | June 30, 2017
Despicable Me 3 sees our anti-hero-turned-hero Gru (Steve Carell) now working for the good guys, the Anti-Villain League. The film kicks off with an entertaining battle between him and supervillain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former 80s child star out for Hollywood blood after his show was canceled, literally becoming an adult version of the role he played. Gru prevents him from stealing a prized diamond but Bratt is able to slip away.
Still, it’s a job well done for a former bad guy, much to the approval of his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who is happy with Gru’s new direction as a good guy, spending time with their adopted children, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Nev Scharrel).
Only both Gru and Lucy are blindsided with their dual firing from the AVL by the hard-nosed new director Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate). Things get more complicated with the sudden arrival of Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell). They were separated as kids when their parents got divorced, and Dru has been living off the wealth acquired by their supervillain father. Dru begs Gru to teach him his villainous ways, as Dru failed to live up to his disappointed father’s legacy.
Considering it’s comfortably in its third sequel, you can probably guess how this whole thing plays out. Directed by the team of Pierre Coffin (who voices the Minions) and Kyle Balda (with co-direction by Eric Guillon), they safely handle the script shared by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul without much risk taking. The beats and story are familiar and handled exactly as you’d expect, resulting in some predictable entertainment. But you really could do much worse.
While it doesn’t quite have the heart of the first film (neither did Despicable Me 2), fans familiarity with the characters is enough to keep repeat customers happy, and kids glued to their seats. There’s not quite the same level of enjoyment for adults, although there are a few clever gags here and there – it doesn’t quite have the smart hidden humor that we are spoiled with from the likes of Pixar and most recently Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.
Of course, there are Minions, and surprisingly, they aren’t given quite as much attention as one would expect. Considering that they have their own movies to shine and they’re arguably overused in the zeitgeist in general, this was a good move. Their tone-down use is rewarding as the sequences that they do show up in work better and result in some genuine silly gags (references to another Illumination Entertainment feature, Sing, is a bit of harmless fun).
Despicable Me 3 isn’t bad; it’s a rather harmless way to spend 90 minutes with your family. But it stumbles in its lack of heart, falling short in making the audience really care about the brotherly relationship between Gru and Stu, despite the best intentions of Carell, who seems to be having a blast voicing both characters. The first film was a pleasant surprise because it had some real genuine character moments that were effective. This is not the case this time around, as the film would rather set up story arcs for future installments that are sure to come after it dominates the box office this summer.
The sequels will come, but when they fail to take steps forward in character arcs and storytelling, there’s really no reason for us to come running back for more.