Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
Once upon a time super-villain, Gru was actually despicable; it wasn’t that long ago that he was shrinking and stealing the moon, for heaven’s sake. But adopting cutie-pies Margo, Edith, and Agnes has softened him considerably, leading him to not only get married but also (gasp!) join the Anti-Villain League.
Illumination Entertainment, however, can’t very well switch up the entire franchise and start calling them Likable Me movies. So we get Despicable Me 3, a sweet and charming sequel that entertains well enough but suffers not only from a shaky script but also from not having enough of the delicious despicable-ness that got the franchise off to such a rousing start.
Since Gru (Steve Carell) can’t be the villain anymore, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) steps up to the plate; he’s a disgraced former child star from the '80s, hell-bent on making Hollywood pay for shunning him. But first, he needs to steal a really big diamond to power the giant robot he plans on using for his destructive mayhem. When he gets it, escaping the clutches of both Gru and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) in the process, our hero (née villain) gets fired.
Shortly after, Gru gets a letter from the twin brother he never knew he had—ridiculously wealthy pig farmer Dru (also Carell), who is living in far-away Freedonia. The pair decide to team up to foil Bratt and restore Gru’s good name.
At the same time, the Minions quit in protest of their leader’s newfound goodness and then get arrested for trespassing at the taping of an American Idol-style TV show (after first slaying a Minion-speak version of “I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General”).
And the three girls, who accompanied Gru, Dru, and Lucy to Freedonia, set off on a quest to find a real-life unicorn for little Agnes (Nev Scharrel) after, of course, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) fends off the affections of a town boy whose cheese she ate at a local festival.
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Meanwhile, Lucy is hoping the girls warm to her and begin to accept her as their adoptive mother.
If that all sounds just a wee-bit disjointed, you’re not alone. The script by franchise vets Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio tries to do a million things at once, never giving anyone particular plot point the attention it deserves. While there are plenty of little funny moments, the overall effect is that we’re watching a handful of Despicable Me/Minions shorts cobbled together into a not-very-coherent story.
Plus, after the rousing success of 2015’s stand-alone Minions movie, it’s even more apparent that the little yellow bulbous troublemakers are the real stars of the franchise. And they’re unfortunately relegated to the distant background here.
That being said, co-directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda have plenty of fun with the eye candy, offering a solid amount of 3D dazzle, and far more visual puns hit than miss.
Carell has made it clear that he’s done voicing Gru (and, presumably, Dru) as main characters but is open to returning for the occasional cameo. And with Minions out-earning each of the Despicable Me films so far (and Minions 2 slated for a 2020 release), it seems like the Gru side of things may be coming to an end. Regrettable, perhaps, but after this scattershot third installment, also understandable.
Worth the 3D glasses?
While there are indeed a handful of 3D-happy moments, there aren't really enough of them to warrant coughing up the few extra bucks. Most of them are few-seconds-each bits of flying Bratt dolls or Minions careening toward your head. Pass.