Sunday, 2 July 2017

Despicable Me 3 - Movie Review

The Despicable Me franchise was yet another series that not many could have predicted would do so well. In a year of big hitters from major animation companies such as Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks, the first Despicable Me film became a big sleeper hit in 2010, grossing over $250 million in the US alone (more than the fourth Shrek film from the same year) and around $550 million worldwide, a fantastic gross for start-up company Illumination. Since then the franchise has been soaring to even greater heights; Despicable Me 2 came in clutching distance of the billion dollar mark and spin-off Minions managed to surpass that in 2015, putting the series only behind the Shrek and Ice Age franchises as the third highest grossing animated series of all time. But some backlash has sprung up in the time between the first film and now, predominantly concerning the Minions, the little yellow henchmen of nominal main character Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) who speak in gibberish and always get into wacky slapstick hijinks. Thanks to overexposure from a glut of merchandising, a spin-off film that was received poorly and too many damn Facebook Minion memes shared by aunts the world over, many are now fed up with the franchise.

Despicable Me 3 therefore has its work cut out for it – following two films that rank in the top ten animated films of all time and quell some of the backlash that the series has gained recently. This instalment follows reformed supervillain Gru and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) being fired from the Anti-Villain League after failing to apprehend 1980s former child star Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). With no job and his Minions deserting him, Gru suddenly gets a letter from his long lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carrell), who invites Gru, Lucy and their three daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Nev Scharrel respectively) to stay on his secluded island. When there Gru discovers that the rich and carefree Dru also follows the family business of supervillainy and he seduces Gru back into another big heist that’ll lead Gru to cross paths with Bratt once more.

If you’ve seen any of the previous entries in the Despicable Me franchise you should know what to expect by now and this third film delivers most of the traditional elements – lots of big silly slapstick action scenes for the kids to enjoy, some goofy and sometimes juvenile humour, references for the adults to get and quite a bit of heart to get the whole audience saying “Awww”. Indeed, the action scenes are overall a lot of fun in their fast paced and frenetic energy, with the final confrontation with Bratt at the end being a particular standout of fun – though you know that the heroes will all be just fine, thereby removing some of the suspense, these scenes are still fun and creative. These scenes, and the rest of the film, are all animated fairly well – it’s not on the level of a Disney or Pixar, thanks to the lower cost model that Illumination uses, but the film’s still bright, colourful and looks good overall. Humour wise it’s OK, nothing too groundbreaking and there’s a fair few tired fart jokes in there (one of which pops up in the goddamn studio logos!) but it’ll raise quite a few chuckles over the course of the 90 minutes. And there is some heart and sweetness, mostly coming from Agnes who as a character is incredibly adorable with her wide-eyed and innocent nature. The voice acting meanwhile is solid overall – Carrell brings his enjoyably grumpy weariness to Gru once again and makes him enjoyable, though his work as Dru is a bit more annoying thanks to the character’s greater reliance on shrieking. The rest of the cast do decently, with the other major standout being Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt. I was incredibly curious to hear the creator of South Park in a kid’s film and he’s quite easily the most entertaining bit about the film, with Bratt being an amusing character with an interesting backstory. Though Parker’s voice often sounds a little like a lower pitched Mr. Garrison Bratt is still very fun to have on screen, especially because of the bevy of 80s music references that occurs in his scenes – Michael Jackson, Madonna, a-Ha, Van Halen and Dire Straits all appear in the film and they’re all welcome to hear.

Where Despicable Me 3 falls down on is the storyline. The main plotline of Gru finding his brother and going back into villainy sounds interesting but aside from one quick scene of the two messing around in a fast car and the subsequent heist to attain a diamond stolen by Bratt it doesn’t really go anywhere – in the latter case Gru’s motivation is to use it to get his job back. Given how short the film is it wouldn’t have hurt to see more examples of Gru’s newfound villainy to flesh things out a bit. There are also a number of plot arcs that end quickly, making you wonder why they were there, including Gru and Dru falling out following the heist with Bratt and a subplot involving Lucy trying to be a more assertive mother. These strands are predictable and go nowhere quickly, leading to a feeling of being padding for the film. The Minions get the best of the subplots (thankfully their screentime is scaled back considerably, proving that less is more with them) as they’re arrested and become a gang in jail following their walkout on Gru. Even then their conflict is resolved very easily, especially with their relationship with Gru. This all leads to a film that feels very rushed, not helped by the breakneck pace, and could really have done with some polishing and expansion in certain areas.

Despicable Me 3 certainly won’t win over anybody who didn’t care for the franchise beforehand as most of the conventions that dominate the series are still alive and well, with plenty of big over the top characters and slapstick action scenes. If you found the series annoying before this film, you’ll likely continue to find it annoying now. For anyone else it’s a decent little distraction for your kids but it lacks the fine tuning needed to be great, mainly down to the plots being too numerous and too rushed to really have any impact and some scenes definitely feel as though they were placed in there to get the film up to 90 minutes. Still, it’s a fun ride, especially for the younger audiences, with plenty of big action scenes and silly jokes to keep most entertained. I wouldn’t expect anything deep and meaningful but overall Despicable Me 3 is a decent if not great family film.

Despicable Me 3 – directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, produced by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, with the voices of Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews and Pierre Coffin. An Illumination Entertainment production, a Universal Pictures film

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