Written by Daryn Kirsch
Believe it or not, another animated film franchise is debuting its third entry this summer.
Although this is technically the fourth film in this franchise, I’m treating Minions as a spin-off (and also pretending like it doesn’t exist). Despicable Me 3 brings back the great core characters of Gru (Steve Carell), Lucy (Kristin Wiig), and the three children, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Nev Scharrel). I was a bit nervous about the quality of the film beforehand, but I have to say, if you’re looking to bring your family to a movie this weekend and already enjoy the first two films, then this might be your ticket.
However, if you are looking for the next great animated film, you won’t find it here.
The movie begins with Gru and Lucy getting fired from the Anti-Villain League for not catching the supervillain known as Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former ’80s TV child star. Fans of South Park will recognize Parker’s voice — he does a great job again here, even if I did find it a little distracting. While this moustache-wearing, dance-fighting villain is one that I actually find entertaining, he does feel somewhat one-dimensional – but it’s a kids’ movie, right?
As the story progresses, Gru is reunited with his long-lost brother, Dru. The long-haired and outgoing Dru tries to convince Gru to adopt his evil ways again with his luxurious villainous items, but Gru has some reservations about the idea. Steve Carell voices both characters and is the highlight of the film. He does some tremendous voiceover work that adds so much to his performance.
In terms of the subplot of Gru and Dru, the more I ponder it, the more I lean towards it being a missed opportunity. While I know all animated films are inevitably compared to Pixar, and no matter how hard I try not to, it is completely relevant in this scenario. What makes Pixar stand out is their ability to make films that kids will like, but also that adults can find enjoyment in. Pixar does this by making you care about characters and playing up emotion masterfully. With Despicable Me 3, it is almost as if the film is afraid of exploring those emotions and instead replaces it with gag jokes. I’m not saying this movie has surface-level depth to it, but it clearly did not capitalize on the opportunity.
The minions make a return in this film, but, unfortunately, they didn’t really fit into the plot that well. While at times they were entertaining, for most of the movie they were doing their own thing and not involved at all with the plot, which makes it feel, at least to me, like they were forced into the story for financial purposes. I will admit that I think they work best as supporting characters and not carrying their own movie, so that I was happy to see.
Despicable Me 3 is a relatively short film, clocking in at around 90 minutes. That makes it much more accessible to a family-friendly audience. What makes it even more kid-friendly is the pacing. The rapid pace can be construed as both good and bad, which is partly what happens here, I did find it problematic, especially concerning characterization and how that could have been improved even more with more time and focus on it.
At the end of the day, Despicable Me 3 is a solid movie to bring the family to see, but if you are looking for a great animated film, or even expecting this film to live up to the level and charm of the first installment of the franchise, you might find yourself disappointed.