Despicable Me 3 – Reliable Fun!

(L to R) Gru (STEVE CARELL) faces off against Balthazar Bratt (TREY PARKER) in “Despicable Me 3.”

After reinventing itself for Despicable Me 2, with Gru becoming a good guy and finding love, DM3 introduces soap and superhero trope the twin brother and adds a villain who styles himself after the ‘80s kids show he starred in before adolescence got it cancelled.

The Minions, of course, are back in the way they are best used – short, sweet, frequently inspired scenes that play counterpoint to the main story.

After failing to capture supervillain Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker, South Park, World Police), Gru (Steve Carell) is fired by the new boss of the Anti-Villain League – even though he did thwart Bratt’s  attempt to steal the world’s largest diamond.

Lucy (Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids, Wet Hot American Summer: The First Day of Camp) says if Gru goes, she goes.

(L to R) Gru (STEVE CARELL) and Dru (STEVE CARELL) in “Despicable Me 3.”

Boom! Both are unemployed – and the Minions leave when Gru refuses to return to villainy.

As he suffers in the Gru equivalent of silence, Gru learns he has a twin brother, Dru (also Carell) – who flies him and his family to his palatial home in Freedonia – where, under the cover of being the country’s top pig farmer, he is also keeping the family business – supervillainy – alive.

While Lucy and the girls – Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel) – go into town and have misadventures of their own (Margo taking part in Freedonia tradition with unexpected consequences; Agnes deciding to go on a unicorn hunt after a conversation with a one-eyed bartender), Gru reluctantly agrees to work with Dru (a very souped up villain car may play a part in his decision…).

What do they decide to do for their first job? Steal the world’s largest diamond, of course!

(L to R) Margo (MIRANDA COSGROVE) has a heart-to-heart with Lucy (KRISTEN WIIG) in “Despicable Me 3.”

Credits for animated movies don’t work in quite the same way as live-action movies, but directors Kyle Balda, Pierre coffin (who also voices the Minions) and co-director Eric Guillon and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have combined for a 90-minute romp that plays against the expectations that were set when DM2 played against the expectations of the first film – which does not mean a return to the first film so much as layering another level atop both previous films.

As an ‘80s parody, both Bratt and his kids’ show, Evil Little Brat, are a bit too much on target which might bother adult viewers more than kids. Parker voices Bratt as though he’s doing a one-off parody for South Park and doesn’t quite achieve a vocal match to the character’s very funny physical appearance – and his ingenious weapons.

The way the plot circles around from Gru and his family to Dru and Bratt is handled well – and will provide more than a few visual references for cinephiles – like the visual reference to both Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, Mad’s Spy vs. Spy and The Pink Panther (toons and films).

For the kids, there are plenty of slapstick moments and both kids and adults will get a kick out of the Minions as a prison gang.

Gru (STEVE CARELL) and the Minions return in “Despicable Me 3.” 

There are poignant moments, too – also a foundational part of the series. Gru’s love for Lucy and his ‘gorls’ makes up for a lot in terms of some of his other choices.

Dru is Gru’s opposite in almost every way – where Gru is lark, Dru is light; where Gru’s remaining hair is black, Dru’s is lush and blonde; where Gru was a competent bad guy, Dru is a failure, etc. The one thing they have in common is a love of family (unlike, say, Gru’s mom…).

Lucy is her usual competent self – though Gru’s plans shouldn’t really surprise her. Wiig has lost none of her enthusiasm for the character – if a voice could sparkle, it would be her voice for Lucy.

One of the key things DM3 gets right is the girls – Margo hides a wealth of insecurity behind a façade of maturity; Agnes is the effervescent, bubbly youngest, and Edith is the perfect example of a middle kid who has feels like she has to get into mischief to get her parents’ attention (and she’s just as wrong about that as most middle kids).

While DM3 doesn’t quite match its predecessors, it’s a light family film that still has charm and a bit of wit – certainly enough to keep kids happy and provoke a laugh or two form adults, too. It’s reliable fun.

Final Grade: B-