FILM REVIEW – DESPICABLE ME 3. With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews. Written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio. Directed by Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin. Rated PG for action and rude humor. 90 minutes.
Villain-turned-good-guy Gru (voice of Steve Carell) took a break so that his sidekicks, the Minions, could have their own movie. “Minions” (2015) was fun, but turned out to be too much of a good thing. So now Gru is back in DESPICABLE ME 3, and the Minions are limited to a few hilarious set pieces, including a show-stopping musical number.
The story this time involves new challenges facing Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who got married at the end of “Despicable Me 2” (2013). They have allowed new arch-villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) to escape and have gotten fired from their anti-villian league. Bratt, an ’80s child TV star whose career ended when puberty kicked in, is plotting his revenge on Hollywood for spurning him. Meanwhile, an unemployed Gru learns of a long-lost brother, Dru (also Carell) in Freedonia who has requested his help.
There are several sub-plots including Lucy feeling insecure in her new role as mother, and Agnes (Nev Scharrel), the youngest of their three girls, on the hunt for a unicorn. Plus there’s the Minions–longing to return to a life of crime–who have walked out on Gru and ended up in prison. Indeed, watching the Minions in prison is one of the film’s best gags, as they are no pushovers.
In finding his brother, Gru also learns about his late father. Gru discovers that just as he was a disappointment to his mother (Julie Andrews), Dru was a disappointment to his father, himself an arch-villain. In fact, Dru wants to lure Gru back into a life of crime so he can fulfill his destiny.
This is all pretty nonsensical, as the other films are, but it’s funny and silly and the characters are loopy enough to keep us entertained, whether it’s exploring the Freedonian economy, which seems to focus primarily on pigs and cheese, or discovering the superweapons that both Dru and Bratt have at their disposal. The real strength of the films is the writing and animation, which manage to provide laughs for all age levels from slapstick to sly pop culture references, here favoring music from the ’80s.
Oddly, there’s no tag at the end of the closing credits (although there is some animation for the early part) so those waiting for an Easter egg at the end will be disappointed. That’s the only disappointment, though. “Despicable Me 3”–like “Cars 3”–is an entry in a successful franchise rather than a breakthrough movie. One can hope they’ll stop before running out of ideas (unlike the “Shrek” sequels), but that hasn’t happened yet.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new novel, Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel, will be released this month. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.