Third Time Most Definitely Not Lucky
Its hard to pinpoint when the Despicable Me franchise ran out of steam. Despicable Me 2 had just enough charm to see it over the finish line and the spin-off prequel Minions was unnecessary but still managed to produce enough originality to justify its existence, tying in to the start of the first film. Despicable Me 3 on the other hand, has none of the appeal the previous films in the franchise nor does it have any sort of originality to justify its existence. The jokes regularly feel cliched or tread familiar ground and the plot is lacklustre at best. Consequently, this makes the third film in the franchise by far the worst.
The story this time sees Gru (Steve Carrell) return along with a host of familiar characters from the franchise to take on a new villain, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). This camp, 80s inspired ex-Hollywood star dances his way to stealing the world’s largest diamond and when he does, its up to Gru and the gang to take back the diamond with a little help from his twin brother Dru (also Steve Carrell). The story does play out at a decent pace, chock full of jokes and minion based humour but it all feels a little too familiar. There’s a few interesting plot mechanics at work here involving Gru grappling with whether to return to villainy and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) grappling with parental responsibility but there’s little to no weight given to these story lines rendering them pointless.
The animation is as crisp as its ever been though, and the lighting effects are rendered well throughout. The minions return too but their inclusion by this point feels more like a hindrance than an actual plot mechanic. Most of their screen time hinders around Gru, complete with a minion translation book, struggling to keep his merry band of banana loving critters happy. Four films in, the charm the minions once had is all but gone; they don’t move the plot forward and are a constant reminder of an overused trope throughout the series.
Its not all bad news though, and despite the formulaic plot, familiar stories and under-developed sub plots, this bright, vibrant animation is sure to please kids around the world. Whilst the series defiantly refuses to push the boundaries and try and explore interesting angles, there’s no denying that the Despicable Me films have generated a lot of hype and as such, will still be a hit at the box office. Kids will love the continued misadventures of the minions and Gru, but for everyone else it makes for a tedious watch at times as the film falls into familiar tropes and revels in its cliched story.
To summarise, Despicable Me 3 is simply an unnecessary sequel. It doesn’t move the series forward in any meaningful way, the characters don’t grow beyond the character arcs they embark within the film and the minions by this point are more of an annoyance than anything else. Its obvious that the franchise is running on fumes, devoid of any meaningful progression whilst making it apparent its sole purpose is to make money at the box office – which it inevitably will based on reputation alone. There’s certainly potential here but its wasted in favour of a lacklustre sequel that proves the franchise lacks the charm that it once had in abundance.