Review: Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Despicable Me 3

Rating

Director

Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin

Screenplay

Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio

Length

1h 30m

Starring

Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate

MPAA Rating

PG for action and rude humor

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Review

At what point to film series and franchises begin to lose their bite? Despicable Me 3 aims to answer that question and the result is not what the studio is anticipating.

In 2010, Illumination Entertainment stumbled upon a premise that would lift its stock to a point not far below the greats of Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. Their concept of an archvillain using children as pawns, but discovering a genuine affection for them was a novel concept in animation and the end result was a warm, sweet exploration of fatherhood and family.

Three years later, that film’s immense popularity led to a continuation of the story where Gru (Steve Carell) falls in love with a secret agent (Kristen Wiig) while his family is threatened by the machinations of a new villainous threat. The film was a solid effort, but began showing signs of limited potential. Gru was turned into a good guy and his nefarious schemes felt like an ever-present, but modestly distant memory. The familial joy was there, but a bit diminished. It was enjoyable, but not as moving as the original.

They followed this with an ill-advised prequel based on the popular pill-shaped Minions of the first two films. These critters speak in a language only they can understand, but which the audience can pick up contextual and visual clues to comprehend. This slow-moving film was a decided downward collapse of the series and laid the groundwork for concern over its future.

Now we come to the fourth film of Illuminations bread-and-butter franchise and it is a direct continuance of the characters and storylines of the second film. This time out, Gru and Lucy are in pursuit of a former child star-turned-villain (Trey Parker) who has plotted to steal a massive pink diamond. To complicate matters, Gru discovers that he has a long-lost twin(ish) brother named Dru. Dru always wanted to be the supervillain Gru was, but had to satisfy himself with playing spy in his own mind and with the vast wealth his father left him.

As Dru and Gru explore their fraternal relationship, they must work together alongside Lucy to break into Balathazar Bratt’s heavily-defended compound and retrieve the purloined gem while bonding in the process. Many antiquated tropes of the spy and thriller genre, such as the family-in-distress dynamic, are on full display here and the machismo that has permeated the series threatens to undermine the jovial and friendly atmosphere the series once reveled in.

Pierre Coffin, who has been a part of the production, directing, and writing team since the beginning, has been shepherding the franchise towards its massive box office takes and popular approval, he has seemingly forgotten what had made the original film so special. That sense of emotional and paternal growth felt genuine and irrepressible. Now, it feels gratuitous and inconsequential, tacked on to tie it into the previous films, but lacking the sincerity.

This fourth incarnation has lost its way. Paying lip service to its own origins and haphazardly connecting to the past films, it is thankfully a step up from the incongruous and dull prequel. However, even as an improvement, it’s a pale shadow of the original featuring some endearing and humorous moments, but lacking the depth and creativity the series once employed. Despicable Me 3 is an entertaining slip of a film, but it’s not a movie that commands respect or demands for future outings.

Oscar Prospects

Probables: Animated Feature

Review Written

August 9, 2017

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