Over the past several years, Universal Pictures has been able to print money because of some characters you might have heard of: the Minions, those squatty, yellow, walking marshmallows with a penchant for jibber-jabber. Coming on the scene in 2010 in the animated film, Despicable Me, they are now all these years later found everywhere: on clothes, bedsheets, toy aisles, multiple apps, you name it. You might chalk them up as a fad, but if the worldwide box-office total for their namesake solo film in 2015 show anything (it’s the second highest grossing animated film…OF ALL TIME), it’s that we should expect to see these guys for many, many years…for better or worse.
A few months ago, I saw my first glimpse of Despicable Me 3 in its first trailer. My family laughed greatly. We see many children’s films in theaters, so needless to say, we saw that commercial and the one to follow several times. I have liked each of the films, some of them quite a bit, but with this one riffing on the 1980s with its villain, Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker), I was prepared for the best yet. If only the laughs could hold consistent to the trailers…if only.
Here, we follow everyone’s favorite baddie-turned-goodie, Gru (Steve Carell), after he and his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), are fired from their jobs with the Anti-Villain League when Bratt escape their attempts at capturing him after his botched diamond heist. I realize that it may be hard to remember that these movies are actually about more than just the Minions. Anyways, Gru experiences a bit of an existential crisis while unemployed, which isn’t helped much by the earth-shattering news that he has a twin brother he never even knew existed. Apparently, Gru’s parents divorced early on, and each took a son with them. It’s all a lot for Gru to process, but that is helped by the enthusiasm felt in meeting Dru (also voiced by Carell). Dru just wants Gru to carry on the family legacy of villainy, and at this point in his life, what does Gru have to lose? They secretly team up for heist hijinks, because what would Lucy think if she knew? Meanwhile, the Minions (didn’t think I’d forget them, right?) quit serving Gru in his moment of unemployment and strike out alone, but trouble always follows them, landing them in the slammer. Sure, there are more things going on in the plot, but I’ll leave those for you to see.
Was it any good? I’ve seen worse kid’s flicks, for sure, but there just wasn’t a whole lot here to get excited about. The biggest problem was that some of the best laughs I’ve had already had for free in the trailers for months now. What was left unseen until watching the full film didn’t really wow me. Sure, there was some zany fun in Bratt’s brightly colored retro-themed tech and the musical cues, but none of the subplots in this film really amount to much. If anything, (SPOILERS) the film sets up the closest we’ll get to a film adaptation of Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy. That future antagonism seems to be rooted in familial love, so forget any raised stakes that can come with ill-feelings between heroes and villains. What is set up feels like it will be “all in good fun”, and that deflates my interest already. Each Despicable Me film (and Minions, for that matter) have had visually interesting villains, even if they weren’t much more than that. Seeing what is implied by the ending here doesn’t leave me excited for what’s to come.
It wasn’t just me feeling this way. While my children loved it, the adults in tow were largely ‘meh’ about it all. It’s no secret that parents are used to leaving theaters unfulfilled by narrative and humor by many a kids movie, but sadly, that was the case for us here. I believe one of the reasons is that the Minions are wearing thin. There’s already an announced Minions 2, and surely, we’ll hear of a fourth Despicable Me film soon. The money already made cries out for more, so expect their gibberish to continue. I just need it said that I can’t see them going much further with this all. In three Gru films, we’ve seen him go from big-bad to dad to husband to brother. What else do we need from him? Nothing, but we will surely get something because…merchandising.
While there are seeming merits to the familial bonding between Gru and Dru, it’s all done at the expense of dishonesty to other family members. Gru uneasily slips back into villainy with his brother, but he just as quickly slips back out. It’s funny the effect a wife and kids can have on a man’s betterment, but they can. Seeing Gru redeemed again just doesn’t do much, as we’ve seen it all before. There are a couple laughs classified as “rude humor” in its rating, but overall, this is a family appropriate film, even if it isn’t particularly fulfilling from a storytelling perspective.
I end this look at the film, hoping the filmmakers will consider an end, as well. Gru and company have had a good run with levels of success most films can only dream of. Still, the story has run its course, and all the sequel teasing really did nothing for me.
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