Gru, Lucy, and the girls are back again in Despicable Me 3 for another installment of the Despicable Me franchise. But does this new film bring anything new and fresh to the table? Or does it feel worn out like a 1980s child star?
Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are enjoying married life as top agents at the Anti-Villain League. But after an attempt to capture a notorious baddie and former ’80s child star, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), goes awry, they find themselves jobless after the new head honcho kicks them out. Things further fall apart when the Minions, wanting to go back to being bad, quit and walk out on Gru. However, Gru isn’t left with idle hands for long as his long-lost twin brother Dru (Steve Carell) reconnects with him, inviting Gru and his family to visit him at his mansion in Freedonia. However, Gru quickly discovers that his brother has other plans for him, pushing him to keep up their recently deceased father’s legacy of villainy. Not wanting to backslide and revert back to his old ways, but desiring to reconnect with his brother, Gru finds himself in a pickle, which might force him to pick one over the other.
With Despicable Me 3 being the fourth film in the wildly popular and successful franchise, it has big shoes to fill. The filmmakers do a good job putting Gru and the gang in new territory, taking a short break from crime fighting. While Gru losing his job comes almost too easily, the plot of Gru connecting with his twin is a nice change of pace. That being said, there are too many subplots and characters fighting for screen time. For example, we have Margo accidentally getting engaged to a Freedonian boy, Lucy’s attempts to be a mom, Agnes desperately wanting to find a fluffy unicorn, and the Minions ending up in prison. None of these have time to grow and flourish into something we care about, but instead feel a bit tacked on in order to fill time.
The prospect of meeting Gru’s brother is interesting, until we actually meet the guy. Dru is the polar opposite of Gru, from having luscious blonde locks to looking impeccable in white, but is actually embarrassingly incompetent. Other than his massive fortune, he simply can’t keep up with Gru. This was disappointing because you never grow to care much for Dru and just see him as a nuisance, so the viewer isn’t invested in the outcome of his story. If Dru would have had more positive and aspirational qualities that Gru didn’t, it would have made the two more balanced and allowed the estranged brotherly relationship to have more weight.
At first take, Balthazar seemed like a fun unique villain, but he’s actually just an attempt to capitalize on the ’80s nostalgia of the parents in the audience. The mullet, Rubik’s Cube, and pump-up sneakers are funny at first, but – like most things from the ’80s – they get old real fast. Balthazar is constantly obsessing and dwelling on the fact that his child star career got cut short due to puberty, causing Hollywood to turn their back to him. It’s an interesting backstory, but every scene with him recounts it, causing the audience to repeatedly hear that one sour note over and over and over again.
One thing that Despicable Me has always done well is a great soundtrack and these new tracks do not disappoint. They are catchy, upbeat and very much on brand for the franchise, especially since Pharrell Williams is at the helm yet again. While there isn’t a runaway hit like “Happy” from the second film, the songs that are in the movie play well in the moment.
The 96-minute runtime feels short, despite everything that’s packed into it and the slow third act. But overall, Despicable Me 3 is a decent film. It’s unlikely to do over $1 billion like its predecessor Minions, but fans of the other films will most likely come back for another fun time with everyone’s favorite reformed bad guy, Gru.
For our podcast review of Despicable Me 3, click here.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes