If you mention the minions from Despicable Me, most people will throw things at you and declare them a cinematic atrocity on the same level as the Netflix Adam Sandler movies. But I’ve always been fond of the little yellow creatures. Yes they don’t deal in the most sophistic type of humour, no cryptic references to Turgenev’s Russian epic Fathers and Sons here, but there’s something about them that always seem to get a laugh out of me. Yes, I understand that they got way too popular for a bit and the Minions movie was definitely a misstep, but is that a reason to demonise Despicable Me 2 right off the bat? No, but let’s talk about it for a bit to see if we should demonise it for other reasons.
After missing out on capturing 80s themed villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, South Park), Gru (Steve Carell, The Office) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig, The Martian) are fired from the Anti-Villain League. However Gru discovers he has a twin brother called Dru (Also Steve Carell) who aims to tempt him back into the family business, villainy.
For those who didn’t like the first two Despicable Me films or the Minions movie, let’s make things clear. This movie will not be changing your mind. These movies know what their fans like and they are going to deliver more of it. So yes, the minions are still the same. They are hyperactive, they make very immature jokes and are pawns in a big slapstick war. And even when the minions aren’t on screen, the humour doesn’t exactly get anymore intelligent. A lot of it is very lowbrow. This franchise made a fart gun a must have toy for Christmas, this is what level we are at. But yet I think the movie manages to find a very charming way to deliver this sort of humour. Yes, I did laugh regularly at things I know I shouldn’t be laughing at. Being able to do this is the film’s best talent, and one so many other movies don’t have.
As usual, the minions are the highlight. I don’t care if you think they are terrible, I think they are hilarious when they aren’t in random Facebook posts. And they get some absolutely brilliant scenes in this movie. I love the idea of the minions taking over a prison and having the rest of inmates be terrified of these little yellow pills and when they did Gilbert and Sullivan, I bloody lost it. It’s obvious they have dialled back the amount of minions in the movie, the large majority get seperated from Gru at the start and do their own thing for most of the movie, which is a shame but when they are on screen, laughs happen.
An accepted part of these movies though is that while the scenes with the minions are great, the actual story with Gru tends to be worse. That is the case again and that step down is steeper than ever. Don’t get me wrong, Gru, Lucy and the kids are a nice presence on screen. Dru isn’t as annoying as expected, which is a bonus. But they never generate the same amount of laughs and it’s worse than the previous two films here. The jokes simply don’t land and the story line of Gru pretending to be a villain again is as clichéd as you get. Yes, you know this bit of the movie is going to be worse than the minion parts but it is worse than usual.
The delight of this storyline is the villain is the villain, Balthazar Bratt. This is a former child star who played a popular villain in the 1980s and has then become convinced that the character is real. Clichéd, but it’s the amount of fun the movie has with the idea of someone stuck in the 1980s would do in the 21st century. Because the most popular part of Minion was the licensed soundtrack, we, of course, get some great 80s songs because of this, mostly used as a weapon thanks to a deadly keytar that Bratt uses. I love the fact this movie allowed me to say that sentence and make complete sense. He’s not a threatening villain, but he is one that generates laughs and is certainly memorable.
There is a feeling watching the movie though that this franchise is starting to come to a natural end though. Of course, when you get to a point when your main plot involves a secret twin brother, you are running out of ideas but it’s apparent in other ways as well. Despite having all of the minions skits and the main story, this movie still needs some padding to make it to its runtime. So we also get a cobbled-together story of Lucy needing to prove herself as a mother to the trio of little girls because other than that, they wouldn’t have anything to do. We even have a waste of ten minutes as Agnes (Nev Scharrel, Fun Size Horror: Volume One) tries to find a unicorn. It’s blatant padding and it feels like the writers are just throwing everything they can think of at the wall. If this is what they can come up with, it’s time for the franchise to end.
Despicable Me 3 is a solid children’s movie. The minions are as funny as you expect and while the main story isn’t as humorous, it’s not boring either so it should definitely keep the little ones occupied for a while. But with this being the fourth film in the franchise, it’s no surprise for it to be a bit tired and seem like it’s running out of ideas. I’ve been surprised before but I can’t imagine that the inevitable Despicable Me 4 will be much better, especially as we’ll probably end up with a secret even more evil brother or sister. And blue minions, most likely. Illumination do have other successful franchises in the shape of The Secret Life of Pets and Sing, and while they aren’t as good as Despicable Me, I hope that’s where they make more sequels rather than a franchise that should now end on a relative high.