Despicable Me 3 (2017)

“Does no one value true art anymore?”

Movies like Despicable Me 3 alongside other recent animated films such as the insultingly stupid The Secret Life of Pets or the scattershot The Good Dinosaur – make me happy and grateful that I’m not yet a parent. The bachelor lifestyle allows me to still freely choose what I want to see (which ends up being everything regardless), but I also don’t have to look into the eyes of my own offspring afterwards and report back that the movie they just laughed at is, in fact, artless trash. Better yet, I don’t have to lie and assuage their positivity either. Despicable Me 3 tries to reinvent itself on the surface even though, at its cold core, the chaotic and deafening feature only tickles the senses. That’s not a good feeling to endure for 90 minutes.

Gru (Steve Carell) is back as a member of the Anti-Villain League with his new wife/partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig). He looks to be lost in his pursuit of what’s right while Lucy struggles to earn the mother role of Gru’s three little daughters. Despicable Me 3 places little to no emphasis on these relationship dynamics though, instead cannonballing into a busy plot to entertain and to fuel the sugar high of the tykes in its audience. This comes in the shape of the criminally dressed, sticky bubblegum toting, 80’s obsessed villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star spurned by the industry who’s assumed his old role to exact revenge. He can be funny, aided by a “strictly the hits” kind of soundtrack, feeding mature viewers nuggets of nostalgia to laugh at but never with. Padding the film with another b-story doesn’t only feel like a massive mistake; it’s the landslide that brings it down.

Despicable Me 3 admirably limps around as best as a cash grab feature film can, only before sweeping its own injured leg by adding in another annoyance in the shape of Dru (Steve Carell), Gru’s long-lost twin brother (offering up nothing besides being a blonde haired man-child who is Gru’s visual gateway drug back to the dark side). Dru wants to learn the way of villainy. He’s a phony and a liar, but so is Gru, so the story doesn’t get brother dynamics all that wrong. But that just about encapsulates everything that happens between them. They join forces and fight and make-up and then the movie ends. What do we learn from this film? What can be mined from it besides mindlessness? This is the rare 3D movie that I honestly think is more rewarding – however little that may be – if you were to watch it with eyes closed. At least then you get to exercise your imagination.

It’s hard to think that Despicable Me 3 intended to be this bad. Why would it want to? The cast is solid, there are a few decent jokes, and I maintain my belief that all of those little Minions absolutely make the movie. Hate ’em or love ’em, there’s no denying the artistry required for every audience member to make sense of their over-caffeinated babbling. The Minions are designed to be loud and disorienting, and where the tone-deaf Despicable Me 3 falters every step of the way is in its shameless attempt to be about something by telling us everything. I can’t imagine this franchise going anywhere further or getting better from here on out; what’s sad is that I know it will still stubbornly try.

“Our life of crime is over.”

Rating: 1.5 out 5

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