Despicable Me 3 (Eric Guillon/Kyle Balda/Pierre Coffin, 2017) 1 out of 4 stars.
To be honest, I cannot remember much about the plots of the first two films in this series, nor of its spinoff, Minions (even though I wrote a review in which I said I sort of liked it), but I do not recall the level of ennui and cinematic despair I felt throughout this latest entry. A dispiriting retread of visuals and themes of parts 1 and 2, the movie fills the space that should be occupied by an actual screenplay with musical numbers (courtesy of Pharrell Williams, phoning it in) and a desperate plot thread that doubles the trouble by introducing us to protagonist Dru’s long-lost twin brother, Gru. Even a starring voice part for Trey Parker (of South Park fame), as the villain – who nevertheless is the funniest thing in the movie – cannot rescue this dismal affair from the medocrity of sequelitis. If you have young children and are in desperate need of some air-conditioned entertainment for them, then go, as it’s relatively harmless. Unless you’re looking to be actually entertained, that is.
As the film begins, Dru (Steve Carell, The Big Short) and his now-wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig, Ghostbusters) are in hot pursuit of Balthazar Bratt (Parker), a disgraced former 1980s child television star, now a wannabe criminal mastermind. Like a combination of Richard Simmons and Corey Feldman, simultaneously flamboyant and nerdy, Bratt is culturally stuck in the time of his glory, with a flatop, shoulder pads and yen for the danceoff as a way of settling disputes. Whenever the film sticks to his story, and Dru’s attempt to stop him, it has actual energy. Unfortunately, over half the movie is devoted to Dru and Gru, and it’s just Carell overkill. To top it off, the minions – those yellow Esperanto-spouting assistants – serve no purpose other than to remind us of franchise-merchandising possibilities. I take it back: perhaps the film is not harmless, since if you go, we may then get a Despicable Me 4 (set up, of course, at the end of this one), and that is a sobering thought, indeed.