Despicable Me 3 offers a Betamax load of ’80s nostalgia but fewer laughs

Universal Pictures

A couple of years ago I wrote about a phenomenon known as “Minions Madness” when I reviewed Minions. I’d never seen Despicable Me or its sequel, but I’d finally succumbed to the cuteness of those walking, talking Twinkies with the big goggles and blue denim overalls that have conquered just about every nook and cranny of today’s pop cultural landscape. And now here I am writing about Despicable Me 3, the latest film in the beloved animated franchise from Universal Pictures and Illumination.

Steve Carell reprises his role as ex-supervillain Gru, and fans of the silver fox (whom I’ve been admiring long before he broke the Internet with his suave makeover last week) will also be pleased to know that he also voices Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru this time around. (That’s twice the Carell for your buck!) Kristen Wiig is back as Gru’s wife/fellow secret agent Lucy and director Pierre Coffin once more voices the lovable minions who speak their own nonsensical language comprised of bits of English, French and Spanish. Other cast members include Julie Andrews as Gru’s Mom, Steve Coogan, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Jenny Slate and South Park’s own Trey Parker as baddie Balthazar Bratt, who’s easily my favorite character.

After being fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to stop Bratt from stealing the world’s largest diamond, a deflated Gru learns that he has a twin brother named Dru whom he never knew about. He quickly packs up Lucy and their girls to journey to Freedonia to be reunited with Dru at the family pig farm/palace. It seems Gru’s father (now deceased) was also a former supervillain and that’s how the family amassed their wealth. Dru now wants Gru to teach him the ropes of being bad because he always felt like a failure in their father’s eyes. (Interestingly enough, Gru always felt like a failure in his mother’s eyes because she apparently wanted Dru in the separation but was stuck with Gru instead.)

Will Gru join the dark side again or will he be able to stay up on the straight and narrow path that led him to Lucy and his adopted girls? Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less. At times, the dialog between the twin brothers grated upon my nerves and I was thankful this movie was only about an hour and a half in length. I didn’t think the writing or plot were as clever as the prequel movie I witnessed two years ago. However, the many kids in the crowd laughed often and seemed pleased with this latest despicable offering despite what many of the parents around me might have been thinking. And yet I won’t say it was a complete waste of time.

Universal Pictures

The minions made me laugh with all of their prison antics, especially when they were seen prancing through the jail yard like something out of West Side Story. However, Despicable Me 3’s redemption is the brilliant portrayal of supervillain Balthazar Bratt. Bratt was once an ‘80s child star on a popular sitcom called “Evil Bratt”, which suffered an untimely cancellation when its star hit puberty and the public found him awkward and less than cute. The show was about a bratty evil genius hell-bent on destruction and mayhem, and it seems that Bratt has resorted to a real-life crime spree after failing to come to terms with the fact that he’s now a Hollywood has-been. Bratt is also stuck in the ‘80s, thereby making him the best animated villain ever to someone such as myself who regularly ODs on ‘80s nostalgia.

From his purple leisure suit with hideously awesome shoulder pads, his one long dangly earring and his silky mullet, complete with a bald spot on the back of his head, to his amazing arsenal of weapons including Rubik’s Cube bombs, an evil robot sidekick (who reminded me of Alphie II), a horde of Bratt action figures (delightfully referenced to as his “Bratt Pack” throughout the movie) and a keytar that belts out Van Halen power ballad chords with lasers, Bratt made the movie more enjoyable. As Bratt so colorfully expressed, “Son of a Betamax!” I almost wanted him to triumph just so I could watch him moonwalk again.

It’s to be expected that sequels rarely live up to the hype of their predecessors, even in the world of animation. There’s a reason why Disney didn’t delve into sequels during my childhood (they ultimately did of course but not until much later). We didn’t really need to be part of Ariel’s world again or discover what happened to Bambi after he had a family of his own. Animated sequels almost always cheapen the emotional experience of the originals despite their best intentions, and I think that is what is happening in this franchise as well. However, if the kids in my theater audience are any indication, your kids are probably still going to love Despicable Me 3. But here’s the despicable truth: I’d recommend waiting for a cheaper matinee showing or just buying it for them for Christmas when it comes out on DVD.

Want to see Despicable Me 3 and judge for yourself? Click on the image below to buy your tickets now, and be sure to come back and tell us what you thought!

Despicable Me 3 has a running time of 1 hour 30 minutes and is rated PG for action and rude humor.

Universal Pictures



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