Thursday, April 18, 2024

Despicable Me 3 is Harmless Fun

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I haven’t seen the other two Despicable Me movies, but I can imagine they are roughly the same as the latest one. All I know for sure is that I’m not part of the audience the movie is aimed at. I can report though that Despicable Me 3 is mercifully short.

At ninety minutes it is perhaps too short. There’s a lot of stuff going on around the main story itself. The movie seems to have a hard time trying to figure out how to juggle them all.

There’s Lucy (Kristen Wiig) adjusting to motherhood. Her and Gru (Steve Carell) have married, and we see Lucy attempting to bond with the girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Nev Scharrel). Margo hears a story of a Unicorn and plots to capture it. Edith reluctantly participates in a local folk dance exhibition and finds herself engaged.

I haven’t even talked about the actual plot yet, or the Minions (Pierre Coffin).  Gru and Lucy start the movie off foiling the nefarious Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing the largest diamond in the world. Bratt escapes, but Gru and Lucy manage to steal the diamond back. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for the new boss of the Anti-Villain League Valerie De Vinci (Jenny Slate), and the two are promptly fired.

While Gru, Lucy, and the girls try to cope with unemployment, it’s discovered that Gru has a twin brother Dru (Steve Carell). Dru flies everybody out to his palatial estate in his home country Freedonia. Gru then discovers his father was a famous villain and that he comes from a long line of villains. Dru begs Gru to help him become a villain. Gru accepts and suggests they steal the world’s biggest diamond. You can see where this is going.

I actually quite like how Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have the other smaller stories all spin from the main plot. Gru’s firing acting as a sort of catalyst is actually quite clever. It allows the film a structure and a focus, so it doesn’t meander.

But that’s also part of the problem. The story with Edith and her fiance is dropped almost immediately. It does provide Lucy an excellent chance to show Edith her Mamma Grizzly side, but it’s a lot of build up without a real payoff.

While I liked how the stories all spin from the Gru and Dru story, they never really connect. The Margo unicorn story never strays near the Gru and Dry story. The same goes for Edith’s arc. Poor Agnes is left out in the cold, left to hang out with Margo and her Unicorn hunt. The new head of the AVL is given this great introduction, fires Gru and Lucy, and sets the movie in motion; only to never be heard of again.

Even the Gru and Dru story itself resolves itself too quickly. There’s friction at the beginning, but it soon gives way to instant male villain bonding. There are no stakes I guess is what I’m getting at. Things feel forgotten or unearned.

Even the Minions have little to do with the plot or Gru. Gru’s reluctance to return to villainy after being fired causes a mass walkout by the Minions. Fed up with Gru’s continual adherence to being a ‘hero’ the Minions strike out on their own.

There is a wonderful little moment where the horde of Minions, ravaged with hunger, chase a pizza delivery boy as he drives onto a Hollywood studio lot.  The Horde ends up on a parody of America’s Got Talent and performs “I’m A Very Model Of A Modern Major General” to thunderous applause. If anything the movie will introduce a new generation of children to the wonders of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The one bright spot is Parker’s Balthazar Bratt. A failed child star of his own Saturday Morning show where he was a villain, he’s grown up to be an actual villain. Bratt somehow has a mullet and a bald spot. It’s hard to hate a man who will pull a heist to Michael Jackson or will challenge you to dance off. I chuckled when it was revealed he had weaponized all his old merchandise.

I like the look of the Despicable Me universe, the exaggerated features of the characters and their movements. There’s an odd sort of beauty to the sort of normalized oddities of their appearance.It reminds me a bit of Charles Addams in the way the people tend to be gross exaggerations of how we normally think of people.

In short, Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda, Eric Guillon keep Despicable Me 3 flowing at an even pace, but it lacks cohesion. For all its frenetic energy more often than not it feels like it’s spinning its wheels. I wouldn’t have minded an extra ten minutes are so if it meant fleshing out a few more of the characters. It’s not good; it’s not bad, it’s just kind of there. Still though how many kids movies can you say reference classics like Duck Soup and The Pirates of Penzance. If nothing else it’ll give parents and children something to talk about.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

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