Review: “Despicable Me 3”

Despicable Me 3 poster

With Despicable Me having turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise, it was inevitable that a second sequel to the hugely-popular movie would be released; less certain was whether the threequel would be an improvement over the previous films. Now that Gru and company’s new film has been released, the answer is clear: it isn’t.

Balthazar Bratt (Trey “Cartman” Parker) was once a child actor with his own top-rating television series, adored by children the world over. But after having his show cancelled and being rejected by Hollywood, he sought vengeance by turning into the very character he used to portray. Nowadays, Bratt is the world’s most notorious and flamboyant supervillain, his activities constantly drawing the attention of the Anti-Villain League.

Having become a full-time employee of the AVL, Gru (Steve Carell) is more often than not the agent who thwarts Bratt’s nefarious plans, yet has never succeeded in apprehending Bratt. After once again letting Bratt elude him, Gru – along with his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) – is fired from his job and left to break the bad news to his adopted daughters Margot (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel), as well as his loyal Minions.

Fortunately not all is glum, as the household is informed about the existence of Gru’s long-lost, blond-haired twin brother Dru (Steve Carell also) who invites them to stay in his luxurious European mansion – naturally, the family obliges. Upon venturing to Dru’s home, Gru discovers that his estranged father was himself a supervillain, and that Dru is planning his own heist with his brother as an accomplice.

Unlike Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, there isn’t anything particularly fresh or unique about Gru’s third adventure. It carries over many of the qualities from the preceding movies, like the creative character designs, bright colours and use of visual cues to foreshadow later events; but the movie has few merits of its own that make it worth watching – the animation looks the same, the soundtrack is no better and the comedy isn’t as funny. In other words, Despicable Me 3 struggles to justify its own existence.

The script, which is easily the weakest of the series so far, is the chief contributor to this problem. As well as the central story involving Balthazar and Dru, there are three separate, non-connecting subplots involving a change in leadership at the AVL, Lucy having difficulty being a motherly figure and Agnes going on a quest to find a unicorn, all of which leads to lack of coherence. Additionally, there’s an overuse of clichés which were once eradicated from the series, yet somehow have found their way back.

Despicable Me 3 - Bratt
Bratty: The colourful Balthazar Bratt is one of the few redeeming qualities in Despicable Me 3.

Thankfully, there is one distinctive attribute that sets Despicable Me 3 apart, and that’s its maniacal antagonist. Balthazar Bratt is a entertaining cocktail of Eighties references – he clothes himself in purple shoulder-pads, rocks a large mullet, has dance fights to cheesy pop music and uses Rubik’s Cubes and keytars as weapons. His nostalgia-fuelled character has an individuality that the antagonists in the other Despicable Me films lack, making him the most memorable thus far.

Aside from this characterful villain though, there isn’t a lot of praise to bestow upon Despicable Me 3. It possesses qualities which were present in the previous films, but isn’t worth recommending over those same releases. Perhaps one should wait for the DVD release.

2.5 stars

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