Were they not serious box office big hitters – and among the most successful animated films of all time at that – it might be easy to dismiss the Despicable Me films as being mid-tier ‘kiddie features’.
Each of the films (a trilogy and one spin off) has charm and warmth aplenty but a slight lacking in originality of both plot and character. There’s humour enough in all four films to raise laughs, but chuckles content to be tickling rather than sharp.
Yet still, there is something more to this franchise. A longevity that places it above similar rivals such as the various Madagascars. You don’t fluke $3.5bn.
In Despicable Me 3, super-bad turned super-dad Gru (Steve Carrell) and, now-wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) find themselves unceremoniously dumped by the new and mean director of the Anti Villain League Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate – replacing Steve Coogan’s briefly appearing Silas Ramsbottom) after failing to capture villain du jour Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Hahaha…bottom.
Things only get worse for Gru when his army of Minions almost entirely abandon him in light of his refusal to return to his bad guy origins. And that’s when Gru discovers the existence of his, hitherto unknown, twin brother Dru (voiced too by Carrell). Camp as Christmas, Dru’s an instant hit with the family – and Carrell’s comic vocal abilities too as it goes.
In standard by-the-book plotting, the two brothers are brought together in the film en quest to retrieve a stolen diamond. Whilst Dru wants to steal the stolen jewel back for the thrill of villainy, Gru hopes to get his and Lucy’s jobs back at the AVL to support their family of adopted ‘gurls’. In both Gru and Dru’s way however is Parker’s Bratt: a former child actor, sacked in puberty, who’s grown up obsessed with the character he played in the 80’s and now has world domination by Rubick’s Cube and bubble gum on his agenda.
The main attraction of Despicable Me has, of course, always been the endless gag-possibilities granted by the Minions. That the mass of little yellow tic-tacs have often felt somewhat floundering in their place in the films’ actual stories is always quickly negated by an exclamation of ‘banana’ or the deliciously childish employment of a fart gun. Once again, they’re essentially irrelevant; once again, their sporadically appearing skits are the film’s highlights.
More structurally key, one pleasure of this third outing is that new addition Bratt is very nearly just as funny. Few children laughed more than I in the screening as Bratt Michael Jackson’d his way through the uber-80s opening heist.
A case of what you see is what you get, Despicable Me 3 delivers much the same recipe that it has before. It’s charming fun on a single plane, which is just fine.