UK Release Date: 30th June 2017
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Writer: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Jenny Slate, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Julie Andrews
Synopsis: After Gru and Lucy lose their jobs in the Anti-Villain League, they travel to meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother, who tries to bring his sibling back into the world of villainy.
In the space of less than a decade, Illumination Entertainment has morphed from the plucky underdog on the animation scene to being a big behemoth in its own right. The Secret Life of Pets has been dubbed the most profitable film of 2016 and, of course, the Despicable Me franchise has proved to be a cash cow. Between the two previous films in the series and the Minions spin-off, the series had made more than $2.6bn worldwide before threequel Despicable Me 3 hit cinemas a week or two ago. Unfortunately, this time around, the studio seems to have prioritised spreadsheets over creativity and produced the first major misstep of the Illumination canon.
Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are working for the Anti-Villain League on a mission to retrieve a diamond that is the subject of an attempted heist by 80s-inspired bad guy Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). When things go awry and Bratt escapes, new boss Valerie (Jenny Slate) sacks the couple, who subsequently doubt they can afford to properly care for kids Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel). Gru is contacted by his long-lost twin brother Dru (Carell again), who lives in luxury, and wants Gru to return to the family business of thieving and villainy.
There has always been a sense of originality surrounding the Despicable Me franchise. Even Minions, which was in every sense a cash-in, had creativity running through it. That’s not the case for Despicable Me 3, which is a piece of work so studio-mandated that it’s more spreadsheet than movie. This isn’t so much a film as a selection of vignettes someone in an ill-fitting suit thought might be funny and, meanwhile, would ensure they could sell a whole new array of minion-themed drinks bottles, lunchboxes, plush toys, car air fresheners, beach towels, novelty neckties and terrible Facebook memes your grandma shares.
The central ideas of Despicable Me 3 are plentiful, but paper-thin and incapable of sustaining a movie. Every character gets their own sub-story, but none of these stories ever seem to impact the others and the less significant ones are tossed away unresolved when the finale needs to get moving. This is a misshapen bundle of half-ideas rather than any kind of coherent narrative and, as a result, the script leans on the minions whenever it’s short of a giggle.
It does succeed, though, with its villain. Balthazar Bratt, as voiced by South Park co-creator Trey Parker, is a wonderful comic creation. His 80s-themed weaponry is fun and his hideously outdated style makes for a few solid laughs. His past as a former star of rebellious children’s TV is well-drawn and his rivalry with Gru is fun to watch. Unfortunately, this is a good character desperately in search of a film to match. The script seems far too preoccupied with making cracks about how Dru’s brother has hair to focus on the villain it has put so much time into crafting.
There are moments of joy in Despicable Me 3 and the minions are a reliable comedy stream, even as the rest of the script falters. Illumination knows it has a seemingly unlimited array of little yellow ace cards and so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the non-minion segments of their films are starting to look a little lazy. When we inevitably return for a fourth entry in the series, here’s hoping that the creative minds behind these movies can think of something better to do than indulging in clichés and leaning entirely on the proven charm of the minions – as plentiful as that charm is.
Pop or Poop?
Despicable Me 3 is a film seemingly made by executives rather than creators. It has most of the ingredients needed for a good animated comedy movie, but there’s no sense of coherence to the various sub-stories and it feels as if the writing team has reverted to various tried-and-tested formulae rather than taking risks.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.