Despicable Me 3
US (2017) Dirs. Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda
The folks at Illumination are determined to make Despicable Me into a major franchise having already two films and a spin-off for the scene-stealing Minions, which I’ve not seen but is said to be a bit poor. However, Minions took over a billion dollars at the box office, which was clearly sufficient encouragement for a third film featuring the original concept and characters.
Felonious Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife Judy (Kristen Wiig) fail to apprehend dangerous criminal Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a deranged former child star of the 80’s, but did retrieve the world’s largest diamond he stole. This was not enough however to save them from being fired by the AVL (Anti Villain League), leaving them to wonder how they could support their three adopted daughters.
A butler named Fritz (Steve Coogan) then arrives to inform Gru his father had died and his twin brother Dru, wishes to meet him. Gru was unaware he had a brother, so he and the family travel to Freedonia to meet Dru (Carell again). It turns out their father was a career criminal who felt Dru was a failure for not following in his footsteps, so Dru asks Gru to teach him how to be a villain.
Despite its impressive box office performance, Despicable Me 2 suffered from what I call “typical sequel syndrome” – a follow up film that doesn’t build on its original ideas and relies on a conventional story to drive it instead. This puts an onus on the writers of this third outing to avoid making the same mistake a second time, but considering this is aimed at kids, are they going to care what an old git like me thinks?
It would appear not, but again, the billion dollar box office takings say they got it right. If we are being honest, the twin brother plot is hardly original but was bound to surface eventually – the problem is the contrivance of the whole plot, right down to Dru being the aesthetic and philosophical opposite of Gru, when the storyline involving Bratt needed greater attention.
Basically there are two films here, three if you count the subplot with Judy struggling to be a mother to the girls, along with the intermittent adventures of the Minions, but with the major criticism of their solo film being their antic wore thin over a feature length run time, being concurrent comic relief is the best use of them. And, of course, they were the highlight of the film in their skits, which boasted more originality than the main plot.
Via a “Where are they now?” type TV show, we get the backstory of Bratt, the star of a TV show Evil Bratt, about a junior tearaway with excessive technology at his disposal. But when puberty hit, the show was cancelled and the young star was left on the scrap heap, leading to years of isolation and seething anger that saw Bratt start to believe he really was his TV character.
We are not told how Bratt was able to afford the building all of the replicated weaponry of his TV self but I suppose kids wouldn’t think to question this anyway, but this is largely irrelevant as the gimmick is he is stuck in the 80s. Sporting a horrible high flat top/mullet combination hairstyle, naff moustache, and quoting films, songs and TV from the era, this anachronism is enough to make some of us feel VERY old.
Meanwhile, we have the Dru and Gru saga. Wouldn’t you know it, their parent divorced right after their birth with Gru growing up with their mother (Julie Andrews) and Dru with their father, with neither son to know about the other? Unless their father, a career criminal called the Bald Terror, confessed all on his deathbed, the small matter of how Dru knew about Gru but not vice versa is again never explained.
Anyway, with Dru’s well-timed arrival into Gru’s life just after Gru lost his job and Dru being mega rich, having long blonde hair, dressing in white, and being gregarious and fey, this is paint by numbers scripting cynical adults will begrudgingly have to accept. Dru wants to honour their father by using all their gadgetry to commit a crime but Gru instead tricks Dru into stealing the diamond back from Bratt, which spoils the reunion.
Elsewhere, the three daughters Margo, Edith, and Agnes, don’t give Lucy much room to play the maternal role in their lives, ejecting her try hard attempts at bonding though not with any malice. We all know how this will play out, but again it is a story that had more legs to it as a morality tale with the predictable feel good ending, and would have worked as a secondary plot to the brothers’ plot instead of Bratt’s one.
Perhaps I am over-analysing the simplicity of writing as someone who is not in the target demographic, and whilst I may sound overly critical, I will admit it does work within the context of a 90-minute piece of bubblegum entertainment, which this is. Yet, it is ironic that it also contains many small satirical references and sight gags (including a great one regarding Pixar’s Nemo), and barbed digs at the vanity and shameless disposal of talent in Hollywood.
Visually, this is what you would come to expect for a CGI cartoon, but I do have applaud one thing – the texture of the giant Bratt robot in the final act. It has been rendered to look as real as the natural elements and backgrounds, like sae, grass, brick, etc. and not a cartoonish figure like the cast.
If you can switch your brain off and pretend you are 10 years old again, Despicable Me 3 is a lot of fun with the Minions being the best thing in it. Easy to follow and good for a laugh, just don’t expect any depth or nuance to the plot.