“Despicable Me 3” is a serviceable stop on the inevitable way to “Despicable Me 4.”
The film, directed by Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon and Kyle Balda, relies on audience familiarity with the characters and universe of the franchise, and then throws subplots on top of subplots on top of that. Each story is so shallow that it feels like a series of shorts, with only the flimsiest of narrative threads stitching the movie together.
Two new characters are introduced in this third installment: Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker, is the antagonist, a washed-up child actor from the 1980s turned super-villain, with a serious ax to grind against the industry that rejected him as a pimply teen. He’s got a mullet, a keytar, a purple suit with shoulder pads, and one heck of a music licensing budget (it’s packed with snippets of hits from Michael Jackson to Van Halen). The other new character is a sidekick, Dru (also Steve Carell), Gru’s long-lost twin brother.
After losing their jobs, Gru, his wife (Kristen Wiig) and their girls head to Fredonia to meet Dru, the head of the family pig farming business, which is actually a front for super-villainy, except Dru is terrible at it. While Gru shows him the ropes, the women sample the local Fredonian culture and go unicorn hunting. Eventually, it all comes together as they have to unite to fight Balthazar, who is intent on destroying Hollywood with bubble gum and lasers.
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The Minions, the popular supporting characters from the previous films, are awkwardly shoehorned into the narrative. Unsatisfied with Gru’s domestic bliss, they go to jail after they invade a singing competition. It gives them something to do, and it gives the studio the opportunity for some questionable marketing decisions — because nothing says family fun like jokes about America’s prison culture. That’s pretty despicable, in fact.
Parker’s super-villain is probably the most entertaining part of the film, aside from the Fredonian cheese festival. But “Despicable Me 3” is less than the sum of its parts. The shrill, raspy-voiced shouting from Carell and Parker turns into a jumble of noise, and it’s difficult to pick out punchlines. The whole thing might as well all be written in Minions chatter. It’s wacky, but somehow dull, kind of like conversing with a Minion. But don’t tell our new yellow overlords I said that.
“Despicable Me 3”
Rated PG for action and rude humor. 1:30. Bourbon Drive-in, Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond.