Despicable Me 3

despicable-me-3-rev Despicable Me 3  (2017)    Universal/Comedy-Action-Adventure    RT: 90 minutes    Rated PG (action, rude humor)    Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda    Screenplay: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio    Music: Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams    Release date: June 30, 2017 (US)    Cast: Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate.

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 Here we are at the midway point through the summer movie season and I have to say it’s been a pretty disappointing one. I count on one hand the truly great films I’ve seen at the multiplex over the past two months. A few more have been varying degrees of good. Mostly, it’s been a lot of mediocre product. One of the most disheartening (but not unexpected) things has been watching the petering out of once-reliable franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, Cars and Transformers. Despicable Me 3 follows this unfortunate trend. Even the Minions can’t raise this third entry to the giddy heights achieved by the first movie.

 despicable-me-3Now I’m not saying that Despicable Me 3 is a bad movie. It isn’t. It’s colorful and energetic. It has a handful of funny moments, one of them being the Minions’ improvised audition for a TV talent show. I’ve never heard Gilbert & Sullivan’s “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” sung quite like that before. The best thing about Despicable Me 3 is its supervillain, a former child star named Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker) who’s still angry at Hollywood for cancelling his hit TV show Evil Bratt once he hit puberty. Like many a child star, the public quickly forgot about him. He responded by turning to a life of crime. Adopting the persona of his old character, he goes around stealing valuable stuff with the aid of a robot sidekick. His weaponry includes scientifically-enhanced bubble gum and a keytar on which he plays riffs from familiar hit songs from the 80s (e.g. Van Halen’s “Jump”, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits).

 In the movie’s opening sequence, Gru (Carrell), now an AVL (Anti-Villain League) agent along with his wife Lucy (Wiig), foils Bratt’s scheme to steal the world’s largest (and pinkest) diamond. He saves the gem but lets Bratt get away which results in the couple being fired by the new head of the AVL, an abrasive corporate type named Valerie Di Vinci (Slate, Gifted). This leaves Gru and Lucy with a lot of free time on their hands; it’s a perfect opportunity for Lucy to bond with her three new daughters, twelve-year-old Margo (Cosgrove, iCarly), mischievous middle child Edith (Gaier) and cute-as-a button Agnes (Scharrel), the youngest. This whole mom thing is new to her; she tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to get close to the girls.

 I guess the makers thought since they’re already mining the Reagan decade for their supervillain and the soundtrack, why not take a twist right out of the playbook (the chapter entitled “Soap Opera”) and give Gru a long-lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carrell). They were separated as babies when their parents divorced and Mom (Andrews, Mary Poppins) never told Gru that he has a brother. Dru invites Gru and his family to his home in Freedonia (Duck Soup anyone?) so they can reunite. It turns out Dru is filthy rich (presumably from pig farming). He also has a head of blonde hair that makes him look like a Swedish pop singer from the 70s. He wants Gru to teach him the tricks of the family trade- i.e. supervillainy- a request Gru initially turns down. When he receives word that Bratt has successfully stolen the diamond, he tells Dru that he’s changed his mind in order to trick him into helping him recover the diamond so he can get his old job back.

 And what of the Minions? Most of them walk out on Gru early on after he refuses to return to a life of crime. Their penchant for trouble lands them in prison where they have no problem taking control over the other inmates. Eventually, they plot to escape. It dawns on me that you could remove the Minions entirely from Despicable Me 3 and it wouldn’t change a thing. But what would a Despicable Me movie be without the little yellow buggers? It wouldn’t be much, that’s for sure.

 The biggest problem with Despicable Me 3 is the disjointed script. It doesn’t flow smoothly. Besides the new mom subplot, the Gru/Dru story and the Minion’s Escape from Alcatraz scenario (which feels like a separate movie), you have Agnes going off on a unicorn hunt after being told by a local bartender that the mythical creatures do exist and can only be found by the pure of heart. You also get Margo inadvertently engaged to a local boy after taking a bite of his cheese during a festival (a local marriage custom of some sort). Then, of course, there’s Bratt and his nefarious scheme to destroy Hollywood with a giant robot. Both the storyline and pacing are hectic. Despicable Me 3 tries hard (too hard) and still comes up a bit short. It’s a pretty hollow experience actually.

 The voice talents do a fine job although I’m disappointed they didn’t do more with Slate’s character. She’s just in that one scene. It makes me wonder if she had scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. Parker is very good as Bratt. As somebody who grew up in the 80s, I got a real kick out of his character, a mullet-sporting, shoulder pad-wearing, Rubik’s Cube-throwing, moonwalking meanie who uses expressions like “Son of a Betamax!” It’s highly doubtful the movie’s target audience will get the character or any of the 80s references; they’re there for the adults tasked with sitting through the movie with their kids. Luckily, Despicable Me 3 is relatively painless meaning it’s not an ordeal to sit through. It has Minions so it should keep the little ones amused. It’s slightly less forgettable than Despicable Me 2 (I really don’t remember what that one was about) but it’s equally as disposable. Take the kids to a matinee, it’s cheaper and the same movie you’d see at night. 

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