Despicable Me 3‘s villain is a character who was the star of an ’80s TV show, was eventually spit out by Hollywood, and is now evil because of his lost fame. He’s nostalgic for the days of his show. That’s funny to me since Despicable Me 3 feels a lot like a bad episode of a TV show. Maybe not one from the ’80s, since it’s all animated with computers, but one from now. It belongs on TV. It only has about 30 minutes of content, most of it is filler and, by the end, it feels like the only reason it exists is to remind people that it exists, fill a quota, and make a boatload of money.
That villain is Balthazar Bratt (voice of Trey Parker), who wants to steal a giant red diamond. He’s foiled by Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who are still married and working for the Anti-Villain League (AVL), but escapes capture. The new head of the AVL fires them. One would wager that at one point in the film’s development there was a reason this character hated them and fired them even though they prevented a robbery, but it did not make the movie.
Surprise, though! Gru has a previously unmentioned twin brother, Dru, and we’re now going to Dru’s mansion. But Bratt is still out there! So, after some garbage between brothers, which amounts to almost nothing, we need to do another showdown between Bratt and Gru, and then the movie ends. Gru’s kids get into their own silliness, Lucy’s trying to learn how to be a mother, but the film’s only 90 minutes long and doesn’t have time to explore any themes that it brings up. It posits that mentioning them is enough to satisfy – “why explore what you’ve briefly referenced?”
That’s one of the big problems with these things, though, isn’t it? They have creative and intelligent people behind them, they look like they have all sorts of potential, and then they throw most of that away in favor of illogical nonsense and bodily function jokes. There’s one of those during the studio logos, by the way, because what else are Gru’s minions good for?
Despicable Me 3 is an excellent example of a terrible franchise film made for all the wrong reasons.
The minions, by the way, actually leave for a good portion of the film. They’re sick of Gru not doing villain stuff, so they decide to find a new master. Their antics away from Gru aren’t funny but thankfully take up only a small portion of the screen time. They’re less heavily featured than in Despicable Me 2, which is always a blessing. Maybe giving them their own spinoff ensured that the Despicable Me franchise could focus on Gru and his family; the side characters can stay side characters, which is where they belong and are at their most effective.
The jokes are unlikely to make adults laugh. I can’t speak for kids, but they’ll laugh at a lot and will probably enjoy Despicable Me 3, especially if they liked the other movies. In 90 minutes I laughed once. There’s a lack of cleverness and creativity. Everyone feels like they’re on auto-pilot. I bemoaned only a three-year gap between the first and second films, but this time it’s been four years and this one is even more creatively bankrupt. Nothing that happens in this movie matters, none of it will make you feel or think, and the whole thing plays out like a mediocre version of something you could probably watch on Cartoon Network.
Oh, and almost all of the “important” bits – if you can call them that – are in the trailers. By the way, those very trailers tease much more of a conflict between Gru and Lucy that isn’t in the movie. It’s another example of a potentially engaging direction to take that the film has no interest in pursuing. Because that would be work, it might involve challenging viewers, and it might be too smart for the four-year-olds in the audience who are just here to see the minions break wind.
Despicable Me 3 is an excellent example of a terrible franchise film – the one that exists not because there’s a good story or jokes to tell, but because it’s time to get paid. This has the creativity of a bad TV show, vocal performances that feel phoned-in, almost no jokes that’ll make anyone over the age of six laugh, and threatens to take us in exciting directions before pulling away – because the filmmakers aren’t daring enough to go there. It’s annoying, boring, and makes me wish that the franchise would be taken to the back and Old Yellered.
Conclusion: Despicable Me 3 is horrible from start to finish.
Recommendation: Only kids should watch Despicable Me 3. Preferrably at home, on TV, for free, like it should’ve been.