With the high point of “Minions” being Gru’s brief cameo at the end, “Despicable Me 3” offers the franchise a chance to get back to what works best: the adventures of the formerly despicable Gru. Then again, this is the third instalment of a trilogy, so, you know…
When Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kirsten Wiig) are fired from the Anti-Villain League for allowing 80s-obsessed Benjamin Bratt (Trey Parker) escape once again, they find themselves at a loose end until out of the blue, they receive an invitation from Gru long-lost twin brother Dru, who wants to revive the family’s traditional business: villainy.
Directed by the same team which helmed the “Minions” movie, there’s a noticeable shift away from the gentle but sly satire of the first two “Despicable” films in favour of the scattergun slapstick comedy of the Minions. Lowering the comedy bar makes it a little easier for the film to trundle along merrily but in truth, it feels like it’s having to work really, really hard to keep just ahead of the point where it runs out of ideas. This is most obvious in its lack of a central plot and it suffers that most common of issues for threequels; finding things for all the returning characters to do. As often happens, they’re divided up and given their own plots which – while they don’t really intertwine – at least complement each other. The main action of Gru discovering his brother and flirting with going back to villainy gets itself tangled up in also needing to defeat Benjamin Bratt who is easily the most gimmicky and least interesting of Gru’s foes to date (nobody in the franchise has come close to matching the original’s Vector) while Lucy’s quest to be a ‘good mom’ is too underdeveloped to matter and ends up sidelining and wasting Kirsten Wiig. Agnes’ quest to hunt a unicorn feels like a supporting short which has been added into the movie to bolster the run time, as does the Minions’ completely pointless subplot which is easily the most disconnected from the rest.
The movie still has its charms, though, and Carrell’s voice work as Gru (and Dru) continues to delight. Wiig, unfortunately, isn’t given much to work with but the kids fill in the adorability gap created by the Minion’s detachment. The comedy’s a bit hit and miss, with a surprisingly mean-spirited dig at “Finding Nemo” and a weird visual swipe at Donald Trump among the earlier misses before it settles into its groove of cutesy slapstick and silliness. There’s entertainment enough to keep the family occupied for an hour and a half; anyone under twelve should find it hits the spot nicely. The MAD Magazine ‘Spy vs Spy’-inspired end credits suggest a possible route for a “Despicable Me 4” but there’d be no shame in wrapping up this franchise before they flog it to death. After all, nobody wants another “Shrek Forever After”, do they?