It’s been quite a ride with the Despicable Me films. It has turned into a billion dollar franchise that just doesn’t know how to fail at the box office, despite the varying quality of the filmmaking. I personally liked the first one with its clever premise and great voice acting. The second was just OK, nothing to write home about, and I hated Minions. Which brings us to Despicable Me 3: a film that I was not expecting to like as much as I did.
In this third outing, the mischievous Minions hope that Gru will return to a life of crime after the new boss of the Anti-Villain League fires him. Instead, Gru decides to remain retired and travel to Freedonia to meet his long-lost twin brother for the first time. The reunited siblings soon find themselves in an uneasy alliance to take down the elusive Balthazar Bratt, a former 1980s child star who seeks revenge against the world.
It’s hard to overstate how funny this movie is at times. Granted, there are tons of fart jokes and other humor that didn’t work for me. But when it was funny, it was REALLY funny. It is markedly funnier than its predecessors. There are lots of 80’s jokes that older generations will get and there is a subplot about the youngest daughter trying to find a real unicorn that was really fun and charming. I think that the fictional country of Freedonia is supposed to represent Italy and there are definitely some Godfather references in there.
The voice acting is really fantastic with Steve Carell doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, voicing at least 3 different characters in the film and somehow finds a way to make them each distinct. Kristin Wiig is wonderful as well, as are the little girls. I didn’t know this, but Gru’s mother is voiced by the brilliant Julie Andrews and has been since the first film.
The real showstopper in the movie is the Trey Parker’s Balthazar Bratt. There are so many wonderful 80’s references in the way he does heists, the way he dresses, and even his hideout. His inclusion is pure nostalgia-bait, yet everything about him works so well that I found my jaw on the floor a few times because of how cleverly constructed much of his schtick was. During his scenes the filmmakers masterfully use the music of that decade to accentuate his 80’s-ness to amazing comic effect.
It also should be noted that this movie isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch. Its story is really clunky and sometimes nonsensical. It never really gelled for me in any other way than as an uneven comedy. But, as I said before, when it’s funny, it’s REALLY funny. So I think if most people go in with that in mind, they will find themselves entertained.
Ultimately, Despicable Me 3 is good family fun. You’re not going to feel the same way you will in a Disney or Pixar animated feature, but I think you will laugh and enjoy yourself. There’s are a few jokes that I didn’t love my daugher seeing, but it should be fine for most younger viewers.