Despicable Me 3 **

The third time is not the charm for this Minion-dependent franchise that’s growing stale. 

Is it worth $10? No 

After two hugely successful movies and a “Minions” spinoff, Universal’s Illumination Entertainment still found a way to get “Despicable Me 3” wrong. Obviously the filmmakers couldn’t put all the focus on the beloved Minions (we have to wait until “Minions 2” in 2020 for that), so instead they decided to give Steve Carell more to do. Or perhaps he demanded more to do. Regardless, having more Carell translates to “more of the same,” which is unfortunate because the new elements are fairly entertaining.

At the start, Gru (Carell), his significant other Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and a few Minions are trying to stop villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing a precious diamond. Bratt is a former ‘80s child star whose hit TV show was yanked from the air when he hit puberty. Poor kid, all he did was grow up. The rejection deeply scarred him, and now he vows revenge on Hollywood for suppressing what he believes is his rightful stardom. Accordingly, he wears an ‘80s purple jump suit, sports a mullet, rocks Reebok “Pumps” and comes with a personal soundtrack of ‘80s rock classics, including Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” Van Halen’s “Jump,” and more.

This is a good, creative villain, voiced by “South Park’s” Trey Parker with knowing affection for the ‘80s. Bratt is also quite clearly designed with parents in mind as kids giggle at the Minions and the child-friendly silliness of the rest of it. Without a doubt, Bratt is one of the film’s highlights.

And yet, directors Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin venture away from Bratt for long stretches to introduce Dru (Carell again), Gru’s long-lost twin brother who aspires to be a villain. Dru and Gru have different interests, but they’re similar enough that they seem like one and the same, and in doing so everything about their storyline feels redundant. Worse, this sidelines Wiig’s Lucy to essentially a “mommy” role looking after Gru and Lucy’s three adopted daughters, which is a waste of both Wiig’s talent and what Lucy can bring to the story. Better integration of Wiig and Parker’s characters, and less of Gru and Dru, would’ve served the narrative well.

Naturally plenty of time also has to be made for the Minions. Too bad they aren’t given more to do, as every scene they’re in feels arbitrary and obligatory. At one point they sing on a “The Voice” type TV show, at another they’re in prison running the joint. At no point does their involvement feels essential or register as anything more than “cute.” That may be enough for youngsters in the audience, but it’s not enough to heartily contribute to the film’s overall quality.

The animation in “Despicable Me 3” is fine but unimpressive, and sure there are a few laughs along the way. If the filmmakers had a better grasp of the narrative and played to its strengths, they may have been on to something here. Instead we walk out with a shoulder shrug saying “meh, that was okay” and never think about the movie again.

Did you know?
Illumination Entertainment’s next film is “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” due November 9, 2018. Benedict Cumberbatch will voice The Grinch; the studio previously had success with “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” in 2012.  

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