VOCAL WORK BY
Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Dana Gaier, Miranda Cosgrove, Nev Scharrel, Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate, Steve Coogan
Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
It should come as no surprise that a movie franchise that depends almost entirely upon originality and freshness would start to feel more familiar and less fresh its third time around. As an admitted and unashamed fan of the Despicable Me and Minions universe, I have no problem admitting that this time around I found myself a little more frazzled than dazzled as we follow the heart-filled and humorous hijinks of Gru (Steve Carell) as he learns that he has a twin brother Dru, also voiced by Carell, while his new wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) adjusts to the demands of playing mom to Agnes (Nev Scharrel), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove).
Despicable Me 3 was one of my most anticipated films of summer 2017, an oddity perhaps for a professional film critic but there's something about these films that has tapped into my childlike sense of wonder and, logical or not, I absolutely love them. Well, to be honest, I didn't love Despicable Me 3. I liked it. I liked it a lot. It occasionally made me laugh and occasionally touched my heart, but it also felt like maybe, just maybe, the series is headed in the wrong direction and something needs to be done if this film's obviously open-ended closing is meant to lead us down the path to more Despicable Me films.
In the film, Gru is canned from the Anti-Villain League despite managing to protect the world's largest diamond but letting the world's most wanted criminal, former child star turned genuine baddie Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), get away to wreak havoc another day. You would think with Gru's endless supply of insecurities that the Anti-Villain League would have forced him into counseling by now, but this latest failure abandonment by his legion of Minions and a forced yet occasional journey through twindom that eventually leads to the inevitable attempt to reclaim the diamond and capture Bratt.
There is never a single moment when Despicable Me 3 really captures the magic that made us fall in love with this franchise, though co-writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio add depth to Lucy's character and manage to turn her into the mother we'd all really like to have. It's that warmth and sentimentality, at least in my opinion, that made us all fall in love with Despicable Me 3, a film that ultimately has always been about family values and family of choice. There's not enough of that genuine sincerity in Despicable Me 3, sentimentality often replaced by sarcasm and genuinely manifested humor often replaced by awkwardly forced set-ups and jokes that are funny but not funny like we expect from a Despicable Me 3 film.
While the presence of South Park co-creator Trey Parker is welcome here, Balthazar Bratt is a villain who wears out his welcome well before the film's 90-minute running time is up. With a tag line of "I've been a bad boy!" played out repeatedly, Bratt's presence begins to feel as awkwardly unsatisfying as your average 80's sitcom does nearly 40 years later.
Despicable Me 3 isn't a bad film. In fact, I'd still wholeheartedly recommend it. While I was hoping for a funnier and fresher film, Despicable Me 3 still managed to entertain me despite its familiarity and a noticeable decrease in focus on the beloved Minions. Pharrell Williams has contributed a handful of winning tunes to the film's soundtrack, though nothing that sticks like that earbug "Happy."
Retaining enough of the heart and humor to keep us satisfied, Despicable Me 3 should have no problem dominating the July 4th holiday weekend as a film destined to keep the kiddoes happy and entertain the parents just enough to make it a solid choice for the entire family.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic