Is “Despicable Me 3” the funniest movie of the summer, or another ho-hum 2017 sequel? It depends on who you ask.
Ask any kid between the ages of 5 and 10, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear the former. After all, the Steve Carell-voiced former villain-turned secret agent Gru, his three adopted daughters, and his legion of little, yellow minions are downright beloved by the little ones.
Ask the parents of those kids between the ages of 5 and 10 … and you’re likely to be greeted with a shoulder shrug.
“Despicable Me 3” does not warrant anything harsher than that shoulder shrug. It’s a disappointment, not a disaster, and certainly watchable. It’d better be, since it will be streaming in homes across the nation on an endless loop in just a few months.
Diminishing returns are to be expected by the fourth film in a franchise, and indeed, “Despicable Me 3” is the weakest in the series. While it was easy to throw darts at “Minions” sight unseen, the summer 2015 spin-off had its moments of wit, and was assisted by a new setting (Swinging 1960's London) and a memorable baddie voices by Sandra Bullock.
The minions spend most of the newest film on the sidelines. Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda (Eric Guillon is co-director) don’t seem sure what to do with the overalls-clad blobs this time around. They don’t seem sure what to do with any of the characters, actually.
Chief among them is Gru. The second entry in the series saw the super-villain adjusting to domestic life with his girls, finding love with secret agent Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig), and eventually teaming up with the good guys for a new career. There was a surprising amount of character growth -- seriously -- and that’s a missing element here.
As “Despicable 3” begins, Gru and Lucy are on the trail Balthazar Bratt (voiced by “South Park” creator Trey Parker), a former 1980's child star with a list for revenge. But soon Gru and Lucy are (nonsensically) fired from the Anti-Villain League, and unsure what to do next.
Help arrives in the form of Gru’s heretofore unknown twin brother, the blonde-haired Dru, also voiced by Carell. Dru is a rather blank character, and his goal -- to become a villain like his father -- adds little to the plot.
Also adding little is Balthazar Bratt, an empty vessel of a bad guy whose litany of '80s styles and catchphrases quickly becomes tiresome. It’s a devilish treat to cast Trey Parker in the role, but the character is simply not very funny. (Some will disagree; a woman in front of me almost hyperventilated with laughter as Bratt was doing calisthenics.)
The whole film is simply not very funny, and that’s a shame. The first two entries, and even “Minions,” had some genuine laughs.
It’s hard not to be impressed with Carell, whose vocal performances are always a treat. More interplay with the ever-wondrous Wiig would be a plus, and so, too, would be more than one scene with the legendary Julie Andrews as Gru’s mother.
The kids will gobble up the brisk, 90-minute film, and ask for more. This reviewer’s 7-year-old dramatically stood up as the credits rolled and declared “Despicable Me 3” the best in the series, “by FAR.”
Yes, it depends on who you ask. But make no mistake, a film with a climactic “dance fight” set to Madonna’s “Into the Groove” can’t be all bad.
“Despicable Me 3”
2 stars (out of four)
With the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker and Julie Andrews. Super-villain-turned secret agent Gru meets his long-lost twin brother, Dru, who wants to team up with him for a criminal heist. 90 minutes. Rated PG for action and rude humor.