By: Hawk Ripjaw (Four Beers) –
Gru (Steve Carell) has mostly settled well into family life, now married to Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and still looking after his foster daughters Margo, Edith, and Agnes. They still work for the Anti-Villain League, and while they’re successful enough, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) outsmarts them, steals a priceless jewel, and costs them their jobs. Bratt was a popular 80’s child star of a TV show in which he was the adorable villain, until puberty hit him hard. Now, Bratt intends to fulfill the nefarious designs of the character he used to play on TV. At the same time, Gru receives sudden word that he has a long-lost brother that he never knew: Dru (Carell), endowed with endless money and a significant head of hair to boot. Ironically, Dru has always craved the villain life, and wants Gru to teach him his ways. With Dru’s help, Gru can almost certainly retake the jewel and get back in the AVL’s good graces. During this time, the Minions, disillusioned with Gru’s new goodness, quit, promptly get arrested, and even more promptly rise to prison kingpin status. Lucy and the girls go about town, as Lucy attempts to settle into her role as a mother. Margo accidentally gets engaged. Agnes continues her search for a unicorn. Edith is largely forgotten. Nothing really seems to matter.
There’s also butts. Tons of butts. Men get their clothes blown away until they’re nude, faces get stuck in other people’s butts, power wedgies are given by bubble-gum balloons, and Minions flash their butts and even rub each other’s butts together.
It’s par for the course for animated movies to look great now–heck, look at the startling jump in quality between The Nut Job and its sequel–but that doesn’t change the fact that this is another colorful, detailed animated movie that is just great to look at. The animation is colorful, expressive, and overblown, and occasionally treads into straight Looney Tunes territory during the Minions sequences. Nearly the entire thing is extremely silly and consistently juvenile.
The voice cast is stellar, with new addition Trey Parker as Bratt being a standout. For all of the years Parker has been running his own show, literally, with South Park, he had never been approached to do work outside of his own umbrella. He sounds much like one of his characters from his main show, but he’s still clearly having a great time.
Nearly all of the humor in Despicable Me 3 comes exclusively from the visual and physical comedy, while the script limps along with no purpose other than to guide the story to the next bright action sequence or family-friendly sex joke. The exception is nearly everything involving Bratt, which ironically is almost exclusively weird 80s references almost no child will come close to recognizing. This creates a weird schism when parents bring their children to Despicable Me 3 that wasn’t there with other slam-dunk animated adventures of the year. The Lego Batman Movie had broad appeal for all ages and inside jokes for devoted Bat-fans and Captain Underpants had a timeless immaturity in its nostalgia factor for the parents and freshness for the kids. Meanwhile, Bratt’s entire subplot will engage kids for the bright colors and leave them disinterested in a steady stream of 80s references. At least it’s a nice throwback for the rest of us.
Gru, Lucy, the girls, and the Minions together are a terrific melting pot of a family, with their differences endearingly making them a complete unit. To tamper with that recipe is to damage the overall dish, and Despicable Me 3 does just that. By the halfway point of the film, the Minions are off on their own, Gru and Dru are spending time together, and Lucy and the girls are around town. Ostensibly, the idea is to let Gru come to grips with his decision to no longer be a villain, and for Lucy to settle into her role as a mother, but not enough attention is given to the ensemble as a whole to play off of each other. Most notably is the exclusion of the Minions, consistently the funniest element of the franchise and here relegated to backseat status and maybe 20-30 minutes of overall screen time. Had they been removed entirely, they wouldn’t have affected the movie at all. It’s rare that this is a bad thing, and they deserved to have a larger and more integral role.
For all that it has going on, Despicable Me 3 is surprisingly, frustratingly forgettable. Two movies so far have laid some decent groundwork for a good family dymanic-cross-James Bond-style-shenanigans, but the threequel consistently comes up short in trying to find enough for its characters to do. There’s also a surprising lack of emotional resonance and impactful character arcs: previous films made some attempt at delivering some solid moments of character drama, but even threads that could lead to those moments in this installment stop at a single throwaway line and never explore any of the character growth that could come from it.
It’s honestly difficult to dislike a movie that makes so many earnest attempts at cuteness like Despicable Me 3 does. It also boasts a lot of great slapstick and some old-school references that are funny, but feel misguided in terms of the target audience. Ultimately, it’s a likeable, oftentimes very funny, but deeply forgettable entry in a series of diminishing returns. That in itself is worrisome, given that Despicable Me 3 has already set the all-time record for widest US release in terms of number of locations (4,529), and is very likely going for another in terms of weekend gross. That means more sequels, but if Gru and company can’t find more exciting things to do with this world and its characters, it may be time to retire for good.
Still, a grown man getting his ass split by a giant bubblegum harness and being forced to sing “Happy Birthday” as he floats past an high-rise office party isn’t something you see in every summer animated movie.
Despicable Me (2017) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every butt
Sip Your Drink: for every inflatable bubble gum bubble
Do a Shot: for every 80’s pop culture reference
Take a Drink: for every subtle sex joke
Take a Drink: every time you hear Trey Parker’s voice and think of a South Park character