The 400-Word Review: Despicable Me 3
By Sean Collier
July 3, 2017
Quite early in Despicable Me 3, the fourth film in a series that has been reduced to little more than an irritating meme, several of the film’s main characters — Gru (Steve Carell), Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and a pair of the ubiquitous Minions — are pursuing a foe via high-speed submarines. In one shot, a pair of clownfish identical to Pixar characters Nemo and Marlin react with horror at the sight of the oncoming vehicles, before the Minions obliterate one tiny creature.
It’s a moment that summarizes the attitude of Despicable Me 3 — childish, mean and feeble. Taking smart shots at an industry leader has always been a part of the film business (and art more broadly); this isn’t that. This is an also-ran, fourth-tier animation studio crassly and cruelly punching up from depths so low that any gesture can only look pathetic.
The movie never gets much better.
Gru is introduced to his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell). Dru and the Minions want Gru to return to a life of crime; now married and devoted to his three adopted children, he’s unwilling to leave the straight and narrow. Meanwhile, a former child star turned grown-up supervillain (Trey Parker) is plotting revenge on Tinseltown.
It’s not just that the jokes here usually miss, nor is the trouble that Carell and Wiig have mentally checked out. (Parker, new to the series, provides some laughs.) The main problem with Despicable Me 3 is rather that its tissue-thin script — from Illumination Entertainment’s in-house writers, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio — can’t be bothered even to connect its own cookie-cutter storylines. Most of the Minions quit, eldest daughter Margo has her first romantic admirer, Lucy wants to better connect with the kids, youngest daughter Agnes goes searching for a unicorn; in even a half-hour sitcom, these threads would eventually wind together. Here, they flutter in the breeze before everyone arbitrarily ends up in the same place at the end of the film.
I’m not sure why Despicable Me 3 even saw the light of day; after all, the Minions spinoff (terrible though it was) made a boatload of cash globally, and all the film’s advertising centers around the irritating yellow sidekicks. I guess that’s the kind of decision-making we can expect from an imitator such as Illumination; even when they stumble into a hit, they can’t manage to capitalize.
My Rating: 2/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark