TL;DR
  • Good, but not as good as the last two (obviously – like in most franchises)
  • Still funny, but humour more childish with fewer jokes for adults
  • Plot fractured with several storylines, some not explored as much as they should be
  • Charming and charismatic enough to overlook flaws
  • Minions are still funny and adorable (though no doubt still irritate some)
  • Agnes is still the cutest character and deserves her own spin-off

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The first Despicable Me blew into the world in a big way. Beating out contemporary rival Megamind (another super-villain film in 2010 that failed to spawn a franchise) the initial film grossed an enormous amount, birthing a franchise that resulted in an equally great sequel, both critically and commercially, as well as minions-based spin-off Minions. Now an established franchise it’s unsurprising that Despicable Me 3 has hit our screens and that Minions 2 will be here before we know it. Minions themselves especially are everywhere in every bit of merchandise you can imagine; from plasters, soap and toys to plates, sweets and clothes. But just because Despicable Me and its lovable minions are omnipresent, does this mean that the franchise is still any good? Is it still a refreshing, unique and charming comedy that appeals to both kids and adults? Despite showing slight signs of aging and a weakening of the je-ne-sais-quoi which made it so great, Despicable Me 3 is still an amusing, entertaining and charming adventure to behold, making us willing to overlook its flaws.

© 2017 – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment
Failing to foil supervillain Balthazar Bratt’s (Trey Parker) heist, Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are fired from the Anti-Villain League. Refusing to go back to villainy, his minions pick up and leave. Fortunately his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also Steve Carell), happens to conveniently pick this time to get in contact with him, inviting himself and his family to his home on Freedonia, a somewhat backwards, quasi-offensive stereotype of Eastern Europe country whose predominant industry is pigs. Here he meets his apparently charming, more successful twin brother, identical to Gru apart from gorgeous long, blonde locks. While Lucy gets to grip being a mother with to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel taking over from Elsie Fisher), Gru and Dru bond, with Dru eventually revealing that their father had been a super-villain all along and that he wants Gru to teach him how to be a true villain. While Agnes goes off to find a unicorn and the minions get in and out of jail, the main plot centres around Gru, who uses his brother to track down Balthazar Bratt to steal back the diamond and get his job back at the Anti-Villain League. But, of course, not everything goes to plan when Bratt’s beset on his evil plan for revenge.

© 2017 – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment
Despicable Me 3 continues along a similar vein to its predecessors. The gadgets and villainous toys are creative and enjoyable to watch. Yet the humour is decidedly more silly and slightly more childish. Whilst many animations balance a fine line between jokes for the children and jokes for the adults, the jokes here are largely either for all ages or for children. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; after all, the main demographic is mainly children. Yet for the parents being dragged along to see this, it’d be nice to have a few more “adult” jokes, subtly inserted here and there. Despite this, however, the humour is universal and enough jokes hit well for it to be called funny. More than this, the humour and film itself are charming enough to pull off most of the jokes anyway.

Most of this charm, as with most animations, comes from the characters, the most charming and lovable of all being cute little Agnes. Still obsessed with unicorns and all things “fluffy!”, Agnes is without a doubt the favourite of the three girls and this is most obvious in this film, the other two being more or less side-lined for the majority of the film, Edith in particular. Kristen Wiig’s Lucy is still a welcome addition to the roster of characters after being introduced in the previous film, as a likeable, perfect match for Gru – though sadly much of the enjoyable chemistry they had previously is lacking, substituted in this film to allow screen time for new character Dru.

© 2017 – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment
Gru’s brother Dru isn’t necessarily a bad character, yet it often feels like he is more of a hindrance than an advancement. It’s good that through this character we get more depth to Gru’s character and his history, but he isn’t interesting, unique or funny enough compared to other characters to really warrant so much attention. More than this, he doesn’t massively further the plot, only really seeming to be there as a novelty and to spurn Gru’s subconscious villainous ways to steal the diamond back. Perhaps if there had been more rivalry between the two (as with what we see in the short scenes during the credits) it would have been more fun watching the two of them together; as it is, however, it’s more like being witness to a family reunion of which you’re not a part. Gru however is still mercifully the same, Carell voicing him to perfection and being able to carry the film effortlessly, though I do miss the original Gru with his grumpy attitude and penchant for evil activities – family-friendly Gru is stepping dangerously close to becoming slightly boring… The villain of the piece too steps dangerous close to being a little too desperate for laughs with his frequent hip-thrusting, yet Trey Parker’s Balthazar Bratt is interesting and relatively amusing enough, effectively just an evil version of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord with his retro references, complete with awful mullet, as he listens to 70s/80s music and dances around as he steals the diamond. His revenge plan is ultimately as ludicrous as you can expect and doesn’t get as many laughs as you would hope, but keeps the story appealing to keep you amused.

© 2017 – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment
This story though is fractured and almost too diverse. In the middle it divides into seemingly five different stories at once; Gru’s connection with Dru; Lucy’s attempt at being a mother to the girls; Agnes and Edith’s hunt for a unicorn; the Minions’ journey to find Gru again; and their attempt to steal the diamond from Balthazar. Whilst each of these storylines are somewhat compelling and entertaining in their own right, it nevertheless feels like neither is particularly well explored, the film jumping from story to story and never really letting us fully engage with the goings on.

Whilst this isn’t a bad film at all, it doesn’t exactly reach the refreshing, charismatic heights of the first (or second) one – as is so often the case, it doesn’t really need to be said. With a fractured storyline with a variety of plots, some of which aren’t explored as much as they should be, it’s a strained effort with some forced jokes, largely for children and not necessarily catering to the adult demographic, showing that the franchise may be losing its touch. Yet it’s not going to die soon (fortunately) because it’s still a charming movie with lovable characters you can’t help but warm to and will no doubt put a smile on all faces, provoking more than a few laughs.

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