LESS MINIONS = MORE CARELL = BETTER MOVIE
Despicable Me 3
Review by Paul Preston
Overall, there’s a distinct lessening of the Minions’ presence in Despicable Me 3. This bodes well for me. I’ve admitted on this website in the past that I don’t get the Minions. Plus, they’re clearly not for me to get. Here, they do their weird shit in an ancillary role, which means more Steve Carell. Always a good thing.
More Steve Carell comes in the form of him voicing not only supervillain-turned-hero Gru, but also his long, lost twin brother, Dru. Turns out that while Gru has turned into a nice guy, Dru still wants to follow in their father’s footsteps and become an evil lawbreaker. The extent of Dru’s capabilities, however, seems to be stealing a lollipop from a street vendor. Not exactly blowing up the moon. Meanwhile, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is learning how to be a mother to Dru’s adopted girls, Margo, Edith and, of course, the adorable Agnes, who is sure she’s found a way to meet a real, live unicorn (in what amounts to the least-developed story angle of the film).
Mucking things up for everyone is a new super-villain, Balthazar Bratt, voiced, in what I find hard to believe is the first gig he’s taken outside of the South Park universe, Trey Parker. I suppose that makes sense, however, ‘cause South Park never goes to outside sources for voice talent, so why job out your skills the other direction? But it turns out Bratt is one of the film’s best assets, a bitter former child actor of the ‘80s who starred in a show called Evil Bratt, who even comes with a stupid catch phrase. Evil Bratt was eventually canceled and Balthazar is still fuming over it, even as he’s reached his bald-patch phase. He dresses ‘80s, listens to ‘80s music and would take on anyone in a dance fight to the likes of “Into the Groove” or Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and he has his sights on getting revenge on the TinselTown that canceled him. It’s interesting to hear Parker’s voice reined in (content-wise) for this rated PG film, but his manic intensity is in tact and the movie is high-energy fun when Bratt’s on screen.
The character of Dru is more complicated. He’s not in direct contrast to Gru (except for his flowing locks of blonde hair), so there’s not a whole lot of conflict, he’s mousy, but not averse to trying super-villainy, and he’s not completely incompetent, but gets muddies up plans toward the end with slapstick shenanigans. So he lands somewhere in the middle and if anyone other than Carell voiced him, it’d be more problematic, but Carell squeezes every bit of crazy he can out of the character. And he’s vaguely gay, which is just awkward. With his scarf and huge mansion, he looks like he’s a 1%-er, which might’ve made for some interesting social comment.
By now, the Illumination team have created a unique world of complex gadgets, weaponry and vehicles to fill out the Despicable Me universe. That continues here, with a Dru’s suped-up vehicle that briefly tempts Gru back into the world of criminality. There’s also an expanding-gum that Bratt chews and when he throws it at a target, it expands to render everything around it seized in a bubble. The franchise has always had odd, spindly-looking character design, but the overall image rendering is bright and detailed.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’re probably in for a good time, but Illumnination does again what DreamWorks does, too, in an attempt to keep up with Pixar – bring the noise. The finale of Despicable Me is an all-out attack on the senses with outlandish action, jokes and speed. It makes you long for the simplicity of Toy Story 3, which destroyed audiences all over the place with the modest handing over of a toy collection.
Then again, Toy Story might be a tough comparison, as it’s the ONLY animated franchise to go three films strong. Even Pixar couldn’t keep that up with the Cars franchise (Cars 3 was redeeming after a dreadful Cars 2, but that middle film is certainly a dent in otherwise polished chrome). DreamWorks’ Madagascar went three films, but were you aware of that? There have been three Kung Fu Panda movies, but neither sequel measures up to the underdog tale of the first film. And the Shrek franchise got more and more watered down with Shrek 2 and Shrek The Third, suffering from character over-population and re-treaded jokes (actually, Shrek is the rare franchise that recovered itself with a genuinely funny FOURTH effort). I saw Despicable Me 2, but I swear I don’t remember a frame of it. I remember Kristen Wiig came aboard the franchise and something happened where Minions turned purple. I fear the same fate for Despicable Me 3. You won’t be telling anyone how it galvanized you, Toy Story 3-style, but it’s a decent summer divergence.
Directed by: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Run Time: 90 Minutes
Distributor: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures