The Despicable Me movies are a successful oddity. A mix of Austin Powers style super-villainy spoof, slapstick comedy, those minions and a smattering of smooth songs from music producer wonder Pharrell, all held together by Steven Carell’s oddball performance (and accent) as Gru. Does Despicable Me 3 change things up enough to keep it interesting or has the joke worn thin?
For those of you who missed the previous 2 Gru starring movies and the standalone, Gru-less prequel, Minions, Despicable Me 3 continues the adventures of the (mostly) reformed supervillain Gru, his three adopted daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes, and Lucy (Kirsten Wiig) his Wife and member of the “Anti-Villain League” from the previous movie, and now Gru’s wife. Of course, they’re also accompanied by a horde of those ubiquitous yellow Minions.
The Trials of Gru and Dru (and Lucy, Agnes, Edith, Margo, Mel, Dave and Jerry)
Having battled another villain, Vector, in the first movie, adopting the girls along the way for a scheme, and reforming in the second, in this adventure Gru has to deal with a multitude of problems; unemployment; abandonment by most of the Minions; the revelation of a previously unheard of, (and hirsute) twin brother Dru; the temptation to return to his villainous ways and as the infuriating 80’s-themed super-villain Balthazar Bratt.
It’s a lot to cram into one movie and that’s before add in Agnes’ quest for a “real” unicorn, Lucy’s quest to become a “real” mother for the girls, and whatever it is that the minions get up to.
Each side plot has it’s own distinct beginning, middle and surprisingly satisfactory end, as does the main plot. If there’s any complaint with the story it’s that it all feels slightly episodic, leaving the slight impression of checking in with the “Despicable family” in between major adventures rather than experiencing a major event in their lives.
… and it was all yellow?
What’s astounding is, despite all these threads Despicable Me 3 is just as enjoyable as its predecessors. There’s rarely a gag that doesn’t raise a laugh, whether it involves Dru, Gru, the girls or the minions.
Oh, you might hate the minions for their seeming omnipresence in the pop culture landscape but within the actual movies, they are used surprisingly sparingly. Appearing just enough to remain funny and avoid becoming stale they never overwhelm the film. The incongruity of with their appearance with most of their actions never fails to generate a smile.
I lost it completely during a scene with the minions protesting, where one held aloft a placard declaring “Watz fo’ lunch”. Why? I have no idea, but not only did it make me laugh out loud, the filmmakers knew that putting that detail in the background would elicit that reaction from someone. The film is full of little details like that. A blend of slapstick, humorous juxtaposition, jokes about the 1980’s and slightly more sophisticated verbal humour, ensuring that there should be something for everyone without it feeling like it was rolled off an assembly line. I’d dare anyone to watch the nonsensical musical number with the minions mid-way through the movie without grinning at least a little bit.
It Ain’t What You Gru, It’s the Way That You Gru It
Carrell does a great job as both Gru and Dru, altering voices enough to keep them both distinct, but he does end up with the lion’s share of the plot, leaving Kirsten Wiig with little to do. As expected she does it incredibly well, but it would have been nice to see more of her. The girls are given slightly short shrift too.
In a rare, acting-only role outside South Park, Trey Parker nails the annoyingly frustrating grown child star Bratt, although hints of well-known character voices from his show can creep into his performance. His character’s 80’s shtick and refusal to leave the decade behind is entertaining enough (especially for fans of Rubik’s cubes, Yo-Yo’s and keytars) but as someone who’s from the 80’s even I’m getting a little-tired sick of all nostalgia for that decade.
The film does jump through some weird hoops for its existing voice cast though. While it retires Steve Coogan’s Silas, head of the Anti-Villain League, it promptly reuses him for the voice of Dru’s butler. On the other hand, Russel Brand’s non-appearance as Dr. Nefario is explained in the film, Gru explaining that Nefario accidentally encased himself in carbonite. It’s a weird detail that doesn’t need to be there, but again shows the care and attention the filmmakers are paying to their world.
Despicable Me 3 doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel when it comes to animated comedies but it is very good at what it sets out to do; entertain. During this summer season of hits and misses this makes it all the more worth checking out in the cinema.
Oh and the 3D is so unremarkable that I almost forgot to mention it.