The first Despicable Me was created by Sergio Pablos, a Spanish animator and screenwriter. The story and design of this movie had a decidedly European vibe that distinguished it from most American animated fare. Super villain Gru plots to assert his status as the greatest villain in the world by stealing the moon, a fantastic plot with an unexpected heart when Gru's scheme involves adopting a trio of orphaned sisters. Gru's complete lack of social skills and empathy are challenged when he reluctantly assumes the role of father.
The 2nd film finds a now reformed Gru becoming an agent tasked with bringing down another super villain with the help of a fellow agent named Lucy. Gru may no longer be a villain but he's still working on being a father and finding love with Lucy. The 2nd movie does a respectable job of keeping the franchise moving along.
Despicable Me 3, however, seems to be treading water with a series of events moving from one thing to another without any kind of connective theme. Gru and Lucy are fired from their agent jobs. Then Gru learns of a heretofore unknown twin brother named Dru who appears to have everything Gru does not, an outgoing personality and a full head of hair. Dru wants Gru to get back into the villain game, to keep up their father's super villain legacy. Gru agrees but only as a cover to capture another villain named Balthazar Bratt and regain his and wife Lucy's agent jobs. Meanwhile, Lucy is trying to figure out how to be a mom to Gru's daughters in a tacked on sub-plot to give them something to do.
Once more, Steve Carell is amazing not just as the voice of Gru but also of Dru. And there is a bit of an interesting twist with their relationship. Gru may be jealous of Dru's advantages, it is Gru who is the competent one whose skills are useful. But beyond that twist on this brotherly dynamic, there's not a lot to hang a hat on in Despicable Me 3. It's a series of occurrences loosely assembled into a movie. There isn't a lot of emotional stakes for anyone in this outing. There is also not a lot of laughs. I was keenly aware of stretches of time where I didn't laugh.
I read a lot of reviews that cited Trey Parker's voice work as Balthazar Bratt as a highlight. Bratt's shtick is he's a washed up former child actor from the 1980s with an obsession with the pop culture of his youth guiding his crimes. Me, I thought Bratt and his stuck in the 1980s mind set was a one note joke that had no reason to be other than the idea that it's supposed to be funny. As for Parker's voice work, I was not very impressed. There's a reason for the disclaimer with each episode of Parker's South Park: All celebrity voices are impersonated.....poorly.
Kristen Wiig as Lucy is still formidable and adorable at the same time but her sub-plot with being a mom to Gru's girls feels arbitary and disconnected from everything else.
Oh yes, Minions! Yes, we have Minions off in their own part of the movie including some time in prison. Yes, prison, for those who are sick of Minions. Sadly, they do not stay there.
Despicable Me 3 is not a bad movie but it's not as special and distinctive as it's predecessors. It needed more laughs and, more importantly, it needed more heart.
Over the next couple of days, politics (sorry!) and we take a road trip (cool!). And Saturday, my write up on the season finale of Doctor Who.
Until next time, remember to be good to one another.