Despicable Me 3 (2017) Review
A FUN THREEQUEL
OF DOUBLE TROUBLE
The Despicable Me franchise has been the main staple of Illumination Entertainment. Sure, they have had past hits, most recently with their two 2016 animated films The Secret Life of Pets and Sing, but the Despicable Me movies have always been their flagship movies of the animation studio. Debuting back in 2010, the first Despicable Me started the misadventures of supervillain Gru (and his comical Minions) as well as his three adopted daughters of Margo, Edith, Agnes. The movie itself provide strong enough (both in narration longevity and financial success) to produce a sequel, with Despicable Me 2 being released in 2013, which furthered continued their adventures of his main characters as well as introducing the character of Lucy, a love interest for Gru. While a third installment was expected within this franchise, the heads at Illumination Entertainment decided their next Despicable Me entry would be a prequel spinoff outing, finding Gru’s colorful Minions in their own film with 2015’s Minions. Now, two years Minions and four years after Despicable Me 2, Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, and directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda present the next numerical sequel in Gru’s misadventures escapades with Despicable Me 3. Does this latest threequel installment rise to the challenge or is it a time to end this franchise?
Supervillain-turned stepfather and husband Gru (Steve Carell) now works alongside side his wife Lucy (Kristen Wig) for the AVL (Anti-Villain League) and has attempted, but failed many times to capture the notorious Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former 1980s child star-turned criminal mastermind. After retrieving a purloined diamond from Bratt’s latest heist (but failing once again to capture him), Gru lands himself in hot water with the AVL’s Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate), who ends up firing Gru from their agency. While Bratt makes his escape, and returns to his fortress to plan his ultimate comeback in Hollywood, Gru is left with unemployment, tending to the needs of three daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Nev Scharrel). After learning that he has a twin brother, Gru travels to the country of Fredonia to meet with Dru (Steve Carell), a filthy rich pig farmer who hopes this reunion will inspire Gru to returning to the family business of crime and villainy. While the Minions abandon their master due to his waning softness, Gru decides to team up with Dru and plan an attack against Bratt, while Lucy deals with the pressure of parenthood, learning what it takes to be a mother to Gru’s three girls.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Who doesn’t love the Despicable Me franchise…. I certainly do, especially since I’m a huge fan of animated feature films. The first Despicable Me movie was sort a breath of a fresh air from a relatively unknown animation studio (something that was not either Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks Animation) and prove to have enough cartoon stamina and entertainment value to appeal to its target audiences as well as many others. Suffice to say, after liking the first film, I was excited to see Despicable Me 2 and did have again have its enough “oomph” to prove to be a worthwhile sequel, especially with more emphasis (and screen-time) on Gru’s minion. To be truthful, the minions themselves became a fan favorite and everyone got their answer with their own spin-off movie (i.e. Minions). While I did find the Minions movie funny with all the various comedic jokes and gag and zany mischief they got caught up in, the film itself just didn’t have the same entertainment value as did with the Despicable Me movies (at least in my opinion). However, Minions did gross over 1 billion at the worldwide box office (the highest in its franchise to do so). Thus, it was inevitable that another entry the Despicable Me series would be greenlit.
This, of course, brings me to my review for Despicable Me 3. Like I said, as a whole, I do love the Despicable Me movies and was excited to see another sequel film for this animated franchise. With the announcement being made as well as the confirmation of South Park co-creator Trey Parker being attached to the movie, I can say that I was looking forward to seeing this movie. This was then further confirmed when I saw the first trailer (the teaser trailer) for the movie, which showed Parker’s character of Balthazar Bratt battling against Gru. In addition, just like the previous two movies, Despicable Me 3 was (again) going to feature the Minions in the movie (and everyone loves the Minions in these movies). So, what did I think of this second sequel film? While it still can’t beat out its original movie, Despicable Me 3 does offer plenty of zany cartoon comedy and animated entertainment to please many fans and moviegoers within this third installment.
Despicable Me 3 is directed by duo directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. With both Coffin and Balda having a background with Illumination Entertainment properties (i.e. past Despicable Me movies and other features), it’s easy for them to slide into the “groove” when crafting this threequel adventure with Gru. Taking cues from its predecessors, Despicable Me 3 is dedicated to its excepted banner of nonstop sight gags, over-the-top action spy nuances, and, of course, devoting time to the hilarious escapades of the Minions. It also worth noting that, despite this being the third installment, Coffin and Balda manage to avoid returning to jokes and its cartoonish action situation from previous installments, with Despicable Me 3 itself (mostly) dancing to the beat of its own drum, which, in this day in age of sequels retreading past entries, is a really good. Even the film’s comedy, which is still the same zany and kid friendly sight gags, is still the same, but delivers its own fun and entertainment humor that doesn’t rehash past jokes from the other Despicable Me movies. As for the Gru’s Spanglish speaking Minions, it wouldn’t be a Despicable Me movie without them and Coffin and Balda utilized in a good way. Yes, there’s always going to be Minion mischief and hilarious scenarios that these characters get caught up, but, for the most part, their involvement in is more like a side-adventure and don’t overtake the feature like Despicable Me 2 did with them. It also good thing that Coffin and Balda keep the feature moving at brisk pace without ever dragging too much, keeping the film tight and enjoyable within its runtime. Suffice to say, that the creative minds behind Despicable Me 3 have strong grasp on the overall tone of this franchise, so nothing seems jarring or out of place / out of context within the movie’s narration.
In terms of quality, Despicable Me 3, much like its past entries, does a great job in animation department, proving that this sequel is the most visually-striking that any others. I would even say of all the Illumination Entertainment. Sure, the comically-stylized design of its various characters is not as proportionate and photorealistic like a Disney or Pixar movie, but that’s part of the charm that this franchise is known for and works in favor. In addition, with technology advancing in CG visuals, the animation itself, looking beyond exaggerations, is quite detailed and is layered with textures and brought to life with very vibrant colors. Lastly, while the score, which is composed by Heitor Pereira, is good, the movie’s soundtrack is more of a highlight, featuring original songs and themes from musical performer Pharrell Williams. Also, utilizing bases of making Balthazar Bratt’s a 80s child actor (and seemed stick within that era), the filmmakers uses several 80s pop music, including Michael Jackson, a-ha, Nena, and Madonna.
One of the main problems with Despicable Me 3 is found within its narrative or rather its dual narratives being told within the course of its 90-minute runtime. As one can imagine from seeing the film’s trailers, the movie has two narratives being told, with one being the involvement of 80s supervillain Balthazar Bratt and the other one revolving around Gru’s brother Dru and how he tries to lure Gru back into a life of villainy. While both storylines are good for the Despicable Me series, they both have a hard time working together within the context of this sequel. Much like Transformers: The Last Knight, the movie has a hard time in balancing their stories, with Bratt’s storyline being the focal point of the first act, Dru’s storyline in the second act, and trying to work both story threads into the third act. Picking one or the other would’ve been beneficial to the movie itself and help break down the overabundance of convoluted storytelling. It also doesn’t help that the movie has so many subplot storylines within its narrative, but more on that below in the characters paragraphs.
In addition, Despicable Me 3 doesn’t break the “mold” of an animated feature. So, don’t expect anything ingenious or original while watching the movie. Basically, the movie knows what it is (no more, no less) and you should to.
Like the other Despicable Movies (with the exception of the Minions spin-off movie), the character of Gru is once again the main protagonist of the feature and is voiced by comedian actor Steve Carell. Known for his roles The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Get Smart, and Crazy, Stupid, Love as well as starring in the TV show The Office (the US version), Carrell continues to do an awesome job as the Gru, bring his comedic charm within this grumble and sometimes sarcastic supervillain, who is now both father and husband. The whole underlining concept of the Despicable Me movies has always been Gru’s relationships with people (i.e. the first one was with Margo, Edith, and Agnes, the second one was with Lucy, and Despicable Me 3 showcases the family problems with his sudden introduction to twin brother Dru. Speaking of Dru, being a twin brother to Gru, Carrell also provides the voice work and does have a fun time at being a polar opposite to Gru, drawing out several new character elements within Gru). Its’ actually quite funny to see the two characters interact, but the character could’ve been more developed (this because of the two narratives competing for screen-time. However, Dru is a welcomed addition to the Despicable Me family and a setup for a possible future appearance in other installments.
Beyond Gru (and his new performance of Dru), several other past Despicable Me characters return for this sequel, along with their respective actors / actress who played them. Kristen Wiig, known for his roles in Bridesmaids, The Martian, and Ghostbusters (the 2016 version), returns as super-secret agent (as well as Gru’s new wife Lucy). Wiig continues to deliver solid work as Lucy and the writer give the character of Lucy and personal subplot of trying to a mother to Gru’s daughters. Unfortunately, Gru’s three adoptive daughters (Margo, Edith, Agnes) are, more or less, in the same boat as they were in Despicable Me 2. What I mean is that there isn’t that much to them since the first film and Despicable Me 3 continues that trend. Yes, they have some minor subplots with them, including Margo getting proposed from a local Fredonia boy, Edith’s mischief, and Agnes’s search for a unicorn, but these fell inconsequential to the film’s narrative and are not really developed. Again, this goes back to the narrative formation / structure and, if they ever make another Despicable Me movie, they should definitely reincorporate more of this trio back into the film’s main plot. Still, despite their underwhelming subplots, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Nev Scharrel do solid work as Gru’s girls. Other returning Despicable Me players include the legendary Julie Andrews (Sound of Music and Mary Poppins) as Marlena, Gru’s funny, but colder hearted mother, and Steve Coogan (Philomena and Alan Partridge) as Silas Ramsbottom, the previous director of the AVL. Sadly, while the character of Dr. Nefario does make a small cameo-like appearance, actor Russell Brandt, who voiced the character in the previous films, did not return (i.e. Dr. Nefario is seen, but not heard).
Of course, the big highlight of the feature is the introduction of 80s supervillain Balthazar Bratt, who is voiced by Trey Parker. Known for being the co-creator of the hit animated TV show South Park as well as frequent voice actor, Parker is a perfect fit to play such an over-the-top villain. In terms of depth, there isn’t much to the character of Bratt (again, this is problem with the film’s two conflicting narratives), but there are plenty of 1980s pop cultural riffs and references that are uses for satirical undertones to character persona and his personal vendetta against Hollywood itself. I kind of wished they did expand on him. However, Parker’s extensive voice work in many other past projects help elevate the character to beyond his shallow character development, with enough comic charm to this 80s super-villain megalomaniac. Who knows…they could bring Bratt back in a future entry (fingers crossed). The only other new character worth noting is actress Jenny Slate (Zootopia and Gifted) as the new head of the AVL Valerie Da Vinci. Unfortunately, while Slate is well-versed in both comedy and animated voiceover work, her character is underutilized with an only a brief cameo at the film’s beginning. I assume that she’ll be a more important character in future installments, but her involvement in Despicable Me 3 is woefully minimal.
Gru and the rest of gang return, reuniting with long-lost twin brother Dru and battles against Balthazar Bratt’s master plan in the movie Despicable Me 3. Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda newest film returns to Gru’s world of supervillains and his colorful Minions. While the movie is really overstuffed with its subplots and its dueling narratives, the film still retains its animated fundamentals, especially within its unique animation style, excellent voice cast, and its zany humor. Personally, I thought this movie was good. Despite its flaws, this threequel had enough fun and entertainment to keep me sufficed and I enjoyed the feature from start to finish. It still couldn’t beat out the first film, but, much like the second one, Despicable Me 3 is a fun sequel. Thus, I would say that this movie is a recommended feature and a stamp of approval from me as kids will like as well as its fans of the first two. There is still room for further films with Gru and his family, especially after introducing Dru in this movie. However, much like what I said about Cars 3, I think that the Despicable Me franchise should end more on high note rather than continue with less desirable sequels. No one wants to see this beloved animated franchise end up like the Ice Age movies. On the other hand, everyone loves the Despicable Me movies (and they do bring big dollars at the box office), so I’m sure the studio heads are already planning its future installments.
3.8 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: June 30th, 2017
Reviewed On: July 2nd, 2017
Despicable Me 3 is 90 minutes long and is rated PG for action and rude humor