Despicable Me 3 begins with Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) foiling but failing to capture former-child-star-turned-villain Balthazar Bratt. This leads to them being fired from their jobs. While trying to figure out what he’s going to do next, Gru learns that he has a twin brother, Dru (also Carrell). It turns out that the two were separated at birth when their parents divorced, Dru having grown up with their father. Dru wants to get into villainy, following in the footsteps of their father. Gru is reluctant to get back into that life, but teams up with his brother to at least get back at Balthazar Bratt.When the first Despicable Me came out, it felt pretty inspired. Though the plot was de rigueur at best, it built a really interesting world around its villainous character. It went into strange details like how heists were funded and how villains would ultimately be rewarded for their efforts. Little of that inspiration has made its way into this third (or fourth, counting the spinoff Minions) film in the franchise. The movie barely strings together a narrative, and finds little of the surprising heart present at the start of this whole venture.The thing is, it doesn’t even feel like the filmmakers are all that into making a Despicable Me movie anymore. The Minions were the breakout success of this franchise, and it kind of feels like the entire Gru plot was a secondary concern to just giving the little yellow creatures another platform. It barely sustains any narrative at all, the film adopting and then quickly dropping little plot point before they have a chance to turn into anything substantial. Meanwhile, they’ll dedicate an extended segment of the film to the Minions song number. Because that’s all that really matters in the end.There is potential meat in the brother angle, but it isn’t explored a whole lot. There should be something to Gru learning that his mother has been lying to him his entire life, or realizing that he never really got to meet his father. But Dru is just an incompetent Gru, and there really isn’t a substantial arc between them. At this point, the film seems afraid of any kind of genuine emotion. It rushes through its character moments, afraid that any dip in comedic momentum will lose them the infantile audience drawn to the call of the little yellow monsters.There just isn’t much of a sense that the film is trying very hard anymore. The film seems more prone to defaulting to slapstick comedy, with Gru’s cruelness manifesting more as doing actual physical harm to others. The main villain of the film has a final scheme that involves the outright destruction of a city, which feels like a real betrayal of the more lighthearted villainy of previous installments. Voice work is pretty good, with Steve Carrell managing to create two very distinct characters in Dru and Gru. And South Park’s Trey Parker does seem to be having a lot of fun voicing the film’s villain.Despicable Me 3 is one of those films that feels like it was made out of obligation, rather than any real passion to tell a story. That’s usually the case anyway with the third installment of any successful franchise, but even given that leeway, the film still feels completely tired. The creators have nothing left to say about these characters, who all have nowhere else to go. And so, in the absence of any narrative arcs worth telling, the film just kind of drifts aimlessly, with the occasional Minion segment reminding the kids why they went into the theater in the first place.
DESPICABLE ME 3 IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.