Watching Despicable Me 3
, it's easy to see why it was made. The last two films (and their 2015 spin off Minions
) were huge hits with kids, and even adults. With the kind of bank these movies have made, why wouldn't a studio green light a third? It makes perfect sense on a financial level. On the creative side, sadly, what we have here is a project that feels like it was slapped together out of desperation. While far from unwatchable, there's very little comedic spark here. This feels less like a story the filmmakers wanted to tell, and more like a studio requirement that nobody really wanted to make in the first place.
It's also a movie that frequently seems to be at war with itself. The earlier movies were perfectly suitable for kids, while also slipping in some smart humor or throw away lines that adults could laugh at. Despicable Me 3
seems to be aimed entirely at the under-10 crowd, with juvenile jokes making up a majority of the gags. (There are two fart gags alone during the animation studio logo before the film even properly begins.) Okay, fine enough. But then, why does the movie throw in so many references to the 1980s that will fly over kids' heads? These come in the form of the film's villain, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker from South Park
), a former 80s child star turned supervillain who uses breakdancing and relics from the era like Rubik's Cubes in his crimes. It's kind of funny at first, but the writers quickly run out of inspiration for the character, and just have him constantly reference music and items from the decade instead of actually doing anything interesting. In a movie full of missed opportunities, he's one of the bigger ones.
In a movie that exists simply to be a summer cash cow, the uninspired plot is usually the first warning sign, and that is definitely the case here. We find Gru (voice by Steve Carell) and his new wife Lucy (Kristin Wiig) invited to meet Gru's long-lost twin brother, Dru (also Carell). Gru has been depressed lately, due to the fact he was fired from his job at the Anti-Villain League for failing to capture Bratt during one of his capers, and hopes that the reunion will lift his spirits. Little does Gru realize, Dru wants to get into the villain business, and is hoping that Gru will teach him. Meanwhile, Gru's adoptive daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel) are more or less pushed to the sidelines in this installment. There's a bizarre subplot about Margo becoming engaged to a young foreigner boy because she participated in a local custom with him that goes absolutely nowhere, and Agnes hears a rumor that a unicorn exists in a forest nearby, and goes to look for him. That's about it. The plots are introduced, resolved haphazardly, and basically forgotten about. Even the ever-present Minions don't have much to do this time around, and could have just as easily been written out of the film with no consequence whatsoever.
There's just such a sense here that everyone involved knew that the franchise had run out of inspiration, and they were doing their best to keep it afloat, but to little avail. The characters are still likable, but they don't have the energy from before, nor do they get to interact with each other much. There's a plot introduced early on about how Lucy is having a hard time adjusting to being a mother to Gru's three girls, but again, absolutely nothing is done with it. This could have easily added some heart or a couple sweet moments, but it obviously exists to pad out an underwritten screenplay. Nothing sticks or connects, unless you're of the youngest members of the audience. I will acknowledge that the Despicable Me
films have not been the greatest, but they still had a sense of heart, and even some genuine laughs. This looks, plays and sounds exactly like a series that has run out of gas.
For an unnecessary sequel completely going through mechanical motions, Despicable Me 3
is not the worst out there. Faint praise, sure, but sometimes you just have to look at the positives when you're faced with something this uninspired. However, I have no doubt that the movie will break all sorts of box office records over the summer with kids. That should at least let the corporate heads who insisted on this sleep a little easier at night.