When Despicable Me 2 dominated the worlds box office in 2013, it seemed obvious and somewhat inevitable that the 3rd film would be with us sooner rather than later. Illumination, however, decided to put The Minions front and centre in a slightly misguided prequel and we have had to wait 4 long years for Gru to return. Well, finally he is back, so does Despicable Me 3 live up to the weight of expectation?. My 5 year old and I went to find out.
Gru (Steve Carell) has settled into married life, he is fully reformed and has even given up his jelly and jam business to work full time for the Anti Villain League. His new wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is struggling to win over her new step daughters and his loyal Minions are hankering after a return to a life of crime. When Gru finds himself unemployed following a disastrous attempt to apprehend the dastardly shoulder padded maniacal 80s themed villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), he is contacted by his long lost twin brother Dru (also Carell), but are his intentions more nefarious than just a family reunion?
I went into this with the best of intentions and some pretty high hopes. While the first 2 films were hardly ground breaking in terms of animation or story, they were and remain, a lot of fun. Whether it be the colourful mumbling minions, the grumpy relatable Gru or Pharrell’s wonderfully toe-tapping soundtrack, the formula worked. What we have here is sadly a bit of a mess. Don’t get me wrong, it is still fun and lots of it, but it just seems to be trying to do too much and in doing so ends up focusing too much time on story lines that don’t really go anywhere at the expense of the ones that do.
Let us start with what works. The wonderfully ridiculous Balthazar Bratt (brilliantly voiced by the genius that is Trey Parker) is a delight and woefully under used. A former child actor who, following the cancellation of his show took on his evil on screen persona. His intro, as he performs a heist to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Bad is the film’s highlight and every time he is on screen the film is at its best, thanks in no small part to the plethora of 80s classic tunes that explode in our ears. The minions involvement is slightly scaled back here, which is a relief following on from their tedious prequel, but it is a risky move, given it is them who sell the franchise (their jailhouse interlude is a hoot though) . Then there is Gru himself, he is just a great character and the films action sequences are brilliant, as the film carries on the tradition of giving him cool cars and gadgets, even though his side kick Dr Nefario is absent (the explanation for it is a nice little nod to another franchise), he is just missing that one great moment, like the fun fair from part one or his ‘Happy’ dance in part 2.
While the film is fun, it just doesn’t work as well as its predecessors, the story line with Lucy trying to win over the children is under cooked and the recasting of Agnes, while still quite cute, just doesn’t tug on the heart strings as much as she is in the first 2 installments. Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate and Julie Andrews all feature in the voice cast, but have about 3 lines each, and Miranda Cosgrove’s Margo doesn’t fair too much better. Even the central relationship between Gru and Dru isn’t given enough attention and while fun in places just doesn’t quite hit any kind of emotional note.
Now, I understand that this is a kids film and I am talking about emotional impacts and the like, but given how Disney/Pixar can manipulate our emotions at the same time as having on the floor laughing, this film is found wanting, which makes a misguided dig at Pixar seem terribly hamfisted.
It ends with the promise of a 4th installment, and while I would just about welcome it, a return to the tighter more straight forward story telling of the first 2 films would be advisable, as would be bringing back Balthazar Bratt.
In conclusion, while the minions are fun, the action scenes are cool, the music is great and Trey Parker is amazing, the whole film is a bit of a mess with little or no emotional impact. It is a million miles from parts 1 and 2.
Those are my thoughts, if you want a 5 year old’s opinion. “Daddy, it was the best one yet. I liked the Minion getting tattooed on the bum” Hard to argue with that.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.