By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The heart of the Despicable Me franchise lies in how to tame the ruthless heart of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell). He’s an eccentric misanthrope who learns the value of community. The first film sees him take advantage of others to further his own gains (until the children he adopts win his heart), and the second movie sees him trying to settle into a parental role. The third film sees him managing the family. He’s married, and the struggles is more with him accepting who he is now.
The children Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Grier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel) do not play an important role in this outing. They are merely there to remind audiences that Gru is a family man. He’s happily married to Lucy (Kristen Wiig), but after losing their job at the Anti-Villain League (AVL) after a botched attempt to prevent Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing a huge diamond, just what’s next requires him to evaluate what can he do next? This turn of events has Mel (the leader of the Minions) unhappy and Dru (Gru’s long-lost twin brother) trying to convince him to return to a life of crime.
Bratt is mildly amusing. Much of his backstory is explained by the fact nobody wants to watch a punk teen causing mayhem in a television series called “Evil Bratt.” He was funny when he was a child, sort of like Dennis the Menace. This comic strip character’s charm laid in how young he was and his ‘carnage’ was incidental. Bratt makes for a better parallel to the character from a different comic strip, Dennis the Menace and Gnasher, where he gets to be bad (a bully) for the sake of it. However, once when the zits started appearing and his voice started changing, his television show “Evil Bratt” is cancelled for good reason. As a result, the actor lost all sense of reality. He is stuck in the 80’s, and the music he likes to groove to is indicative of his personality than waxing nostalgia to viewers.
I’m wondering why Paula Abdul is missed. Songs representing his ego include “Bad,” “99 Luftballons” and “Into the Groove.” “Straight Up” would have been perfect to show that this bad boy is just looking for respect over being tossed aside.
The Minions have the best moments after they get separated from Gru. These interludes play much like how Scrat pops onto the screen in the Ice Age series. The laughs are no better nor worse than their solo film outing. The comedy is less garish and to hear them sing “Papa Mama Loca Pipa” is a highlight. I particularly enjoyed how they took over the prison as the song “Freedom” (Pharrell Williams) is played in the background. This scene felt very West Side Story.
The energy and enthusiasm in this production is mixed. There are a few moments to enjoy and others not as much. The central story is with Gru reuniting with Dru and affirming the central concept of the franchise, staying with family. To see the kids bond with Lucy, their new mom, felt trivial. With no Dr. Nefario in this film, I thought this animation was missing a key ingredient.
In a movie wanting to behave like Shakespeare‘s The Comedy of Errors, the lack of extra depth made this film hardly filling. There’s very little material to show how willing Gru is in going back to a life of crime. When he tricks Dru to stealing, the reason is because he wants his job back instead of hocking the diamond later for money. The addition of this new character is a welcome one and if the visual contrasts are a clue and the sequences during the end credits are any indication, perhaps future films may head down Mad Magazine‘s Spy vs Spy direction.
After all, the Minions can not carry this franchise alone. They do not have the super strength.
3 Minions out of 5
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