Despicable Me 3 offers more of successful family-fun formula
Despicable Me 3
Starring the voices of Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig & Trey Parker
Directed by Eric Guillon, Kyle Galda and Pierre Coffin
In theaters June 30, 2017
The Despicable Me franchise, launched in 2010, became a massive, worldwide smash with nearly a billion-dollar box-office tally for two movies and its 2015 Minions spinoff.
Small wonder that the third spy-shenanigans flick triples down with more of everything that worked the first two times. There’s more cartoonish tomfoolery, more Minions and more snappy, rockin’ soundtrack tunes (seven of them!) by Pharrell, who wrote the Oscar-nominated “Happy” for Despicable Me 2. And there’s more Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell), the formerly despicable villain who’s now a villain-fighting family man.
In fact, there are two Grus, sort of. In DM3, Gru discovers he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru, who’s lives in the vaguely Slavic nation of Freedonia, which is overrun with pigs. Dru is more charming than Gru, more successful than Gru, and has much, much more hair than Gru.
Dru tempts Gru by drawing him back into his flamboyant criminal past.
There’s some business about a big, colorful diamond that everyone wants to get their hands on, for different reasons.
Carell also takes on the voice of Dru, and seems to be having a terrific time in his new dual roles.
Kristin Wiig returns to her DM2 role as Lucy, Gru’s feisty secret-agent wife. Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Nev Scharrel provide the voices of Gru and Lucy’s three young adopted daughters, whose heartwarming subplot becomes a warm center to all the movie’s madcap swirl of sight gags.
Be listening for Julie Andrews in her one scene as Gru and Dru’s mom, and Jenny Slate as the new head of the Anti-Villain League.
The movie’s main new addition is a character called Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker, the co-creator of TV’s South Park and the writer/director of Broadway’s Book of Mormon. Bratt, a star of an ’80s TV show about an abhorrent kid who was always getting into trouble, didn’t adjust to puberty very well and turned to villainy as an adult. Still stuck in the era of his childhood fame, he sports a ridiculous mullet (with a bald spot) and a jumpsuit with oversized shoulder pads, strutting around with a Walkman as he shoots wads of pink bubblegum to immobilize his opponents, toting a key-tar that stuns to the opening power chords of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Dire Strait’s “Money For Nothing,” and hiding his weaponry in a Rubik’s Cube.
“I’ve been a baaaaad boy!” Bratt used to say on his show. He never grew out of his catchphrase—he just grew into it.
And then there’s the Minions, those little jibbering, jabbering, quasi-lingual thingies that look like oversized yellow Jujubes with bad hair transplants, goggles and tiny coveralls. They giggle, sing and make lots of rude noises. Before the title of the movie even appears, they release two honks from their “fart blaster,” which does exactly what it sounds like it would do.
In this movie, the Minions crash an America’s Got Talent-style TV competition, get sent to prison and escape by making an elaborate flying machine—out of stitched-together prison uniforms, toilets and other jailhouse odds and ends.
The three directors juggle all the jokery with craft, cleverness and a finger on the pulse of spry spy satire, lightly spoofing James Bond, Pink Panther movies, Mission Impossible flicks, Mad magazine’s Spy vs. Spy strip and other familiar tropes. The movie even spoofs itself: Watch closely and you’ll see a billboard for a movie called Onions, which looks a lot like Minions.
As he plots his comeuppance on the Hollywood that shunned him with an attack by a gigantic robot, Balthazar Bratt watches a Betamax tape of one of his old shows. “Does no one value true art anymore?” he laments. It’s a meta joke, a swipe at a crappy TV series within a joke about a former star who doesn’t know it’s all over—wrapped in an irony about the short shelf life of pop culture and the fleeting nature of fame.
With farting Minions, herds of pigs and dance-fights to throwback ’80s tunes, it’s not exactly high art. But as part of a soon-to-be billion-dollar family-fun franchise, hey, DM3 is hardly despicable.