Many franchises get in a bit of a quandary when they hit part 3, where some succeed (Toy Story 3, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Dark Knight Rises), others fall on their face (Shrek The Third, Hangover Part III, Spider-Man 3, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and more divide opinion (Terminator: Rise of the Machines, Back To The Future Part III, The Godfather Part III, Iron Man 3). So, after two fun family movies and a - frankly better - spin-off in Minions, Despicable Me 3 arrives and it is with some surprising relief we announce that it ends June on a high, after what has been a pretty dreary blockbuster month (Baywatch, The Mummy, Transformers: The Last Knight) after opening with a belter in Wonder Woman.
The plot catches up with Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as they work as agents for the AVL (Anti-Villain League) but the duo lose their jobs after being foiled by ‘80s child star turned dastardly retro baddie Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Down on their luck, Gru, Lucy and the three girls get some unexpected news when Gru hears he has a long lost twin brother Dru (Carell also), who lives a very high life but has secret aspirations of his own that may take Gru back to his former despicable ways.
The core concept is certainly a familiar one and the film does bare some of the faults present in sequels but Coffin and Balda’s movie completely avoids franchise fatigue and the convention of its ‘long lost family member concept’ thanks to constant entertainment and numerous stand out moments that actually make it the series’ most consistently enjoyable offering. It is refreshing to see a film that shows you 90% of what the trailers showed you within the first 10-15 minutes, leaving the rest of the movie as mostly a surprise. And while the plot may not be highly original it moves along with few bad gags and plenty of inspired visual touches and barmily brilliant ideas.
Gru and Dru are a warm double act, thanks to the diverse vocal work of Carell, allowing Gru to remain on a good balance between wholesome and mischievous, Dru however borders entirely on the latter but not at the expense of likability (save for the odd moment where he broaches annoyance but the script never stays still long enough to allow that to happen). Wiig as Lucy also gets an arc of her own, as she tries to connect with the girls as a mother and it is nice to see matriarchal struggle given some focus, over the usual daddy issue plots that populate animation/live-action. Even the girls get their own threads, with Agnes (Nev Scharrel replacing Elsie Fisher) in search of a Unicorn, Edith (Dana Gaier) assisting her and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) fending off a local and his food-based advances.
However, while you may come to see Gru, you will stay for two very different reasons. Firstly, after their own movie, The Minions get the best comedic moments in the entire film, with hilarious musical sequences and slapstick, headlined by a gut grabbing rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Modern Major General”. And secondly, there is Balthazar Bratt! A splendid creation, brought to life by South Park’s Trey Parker. Bratt is hands down the franchises best villain and is better developed than many big screen superhero movie bad guys. Giddily gimmick based, with a zany backstory, a cool and unusual array of ‘80s adoring weaponry/gadgets and Parker’s goofy voice work combining to create a dancing, narcissistic, fallen kids TV star antagonist that feels fresh and oh so bad in the best possible way! In fact he reminds a touch of the Babydoll character in Batman: The Animated Series...anyone? No? Just us then.
From the fantastic opening to a climatic finale and returning characters (one temporarily written out in a slyly apt way) to new all singing all dancing creations (literally), Despicable Me 3 is a heck of a lot of family (and fan) pleasing fun. The narrative structure hardly reeks of freshness and not every joke is on target but the tomfoolery is infectious, the Minions continue to steal spotlights, the sugar rush action engages and Trey Parker’s moustachioed megalomaniac is a scene stealing blast!
DESPICABLE ME 3 / CERT: U / DIRECTORS: PIERRE COFFIN, KYLE BALDA / SCREENPLAY: CINCO PAUL, KEN DAURIO / STARRING: STEVE CARELL, KRISTEN WIIG, TREY PARKER, PIERRE COFFIN, STEVE COOGAN, JULIE ANDREWS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW