Gisell Says DESPICABLE ME 3 Misses The Mark

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This is a very difficult review to write, because I generally hate giving bad feedback, especially on movies that my own kids- as well as others- would most-likely enjoy. I’ve seen some amazing animated films with meaningful stories, and this film- although it tip-toes that heart-filled line- completely loses its balance and misses the mark. It’s the worst Despicable Me film of the trilogy, in the context of how it was put together. This film is a manically-moving mess of material, with so many subplots, that it never leaves itself time or room to focus on the more important issues that demand our attention. The previous films, were subtler with their stories, sprinkling in action and humor, but zeroing in on the relationships. This might not be the worst animated film I’ve seen, but I was sorely disappointed with it.

This franchise began back in 2010, with the first film, Despicable Me, opening to positive reviews and capturing audiences with its colorful characters, original story, music and writing. To put it into perspective, the first film was made on a $70 million-dollar price tag, but exceeded expectations and raked in over $543 million dollars. The studios wasted no time with cashing in on their hot commodity of yellow minion mayhem and hip villainy. Three years later, its sequel, Despicable Me 2, followed, and like its predecessor, was made for roughly the same budget, and amassed over $970 million dollars. The sequel made infinitely more money, and proved to be a bigger success for Universal, so big in fact, that it became the most profitable film in its 101-year history, up to that point. Again, the studios pushed for even more Despicable themed films, by releasing a prequel entitled Minions in 2015. This film was a Minion origin story and explained how they came to be and met their boss, Gru. This installment, again was made for around $74 million, but took in over $1.1 billion dollars. As you can see from these figures, these movies have continually outperformed themselves financially, making a lot of young children very happy.

While I really enjoyed the first film, and I even appreciated its sequel to a certain degree; this third-entry was just vomit-inducing. These studios continue to make more and more of these movies, but they’re moving further and further away from what made these films good to begin with. I’m not referring to the minions themselves (even though they are a popular part of the other films) but more in regards to the personal heart of the story, which is this relationship between Gru and his family. This film was jerkily-paced and it reminded me of an endlessly nauseating roller-coaster ride. I know these films are written for children, not critics, and that’s a fair observation. However, I’ve seen great animated stories, and this is not one of them. Luckily, this is not a long movie, however even 90 minutes feels overly excessive for this messy endeavor. Will kids enjoy this movie? Of course. Nonetheless, parents need to be aware that the charm of the previous films are waning, and quickly being lost to mind-numbing action sequences, as well as panic-cam story movement.

Even though the filmmakers didn’t excel that well with the overall story, it does have some slightly redeemable qualities. It features a new character, named Balthazar Bratt, voiced by none other than, Trey Parker, creator and the man of many voices in South Park. Parker did a phenomenal job with his voice-acting for Bratt’s character. Bratt is a very cheesy bad guy, who has an affinity for the 80’s. Back when he was a kid, he was a star in a popular television show, but it was canceled, so he spends his time sulking and reminiscing about those days, bitter that he never made the bigtime. In the beginning of the film, we see that him and Gru (Steve Carell) are chasing each other. Bratt is in the process of trying to steal a diamond and wants world domination, but Gru, now a member of the AVL (Anti-Villain League) gets in his way. Bratt evades him and meanwhile, the company that Gru works for is in a corporate shakeup, and his new boss, Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate) fires Gru for letting Bratt get away. His wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) works for the same company, and while Gru is being chastised, she speaks up to defend him, and is ultimately fired along with him.

The filmmakers slightly touch on the unemployment scenario with regards to the kids and what they will do now that they’ve lost their jobs. There’s a heart-wrenching scene in which Agnes is doing a sidewalk sale and she sells her beloved stuffed unicorn (which Gru memorably won for her in the first film) in order to raise money for household expenses. Even though this probably seems like a silly thing to fret over, I personally think the writers made a major misstep here. Especially doing away with something that she has had through all of the films and is representative of her imaginative personality and the loving nature of her and Gru’s relationship. Later into the film, it’s replaced by another sentimental object, but I thought this was completely unwarranted, even if the writers meant well in the context of why she was selling it. Gru discovers her selling her things, but he is too late, and although he manages to salvage her other toys; it’s the one thing that is treasured and special that is now gone. Alas, this just draws parallels to what’s happening with this franchise as well.

There’s also a couple of situations which are brought up, where Gru is close to informing little Agnes about what’s real and tries to destroy her make-believe imagination. Why would the creators want to write a scene in which a character that audiences love, borders on telling your littles ones that certain things aren’t real? Let’s try to keep some of the magic alive, people. Let them believe in fluffy unicorns, for a little while longer anyway. Once we get past the issue of Lucy and Gru losing their jobs, the minions are angry that Gru won’t return to being a villain for hire, so they leave him. The minion-angle in this story is horrendous. They are a minor part of the movie, thankfully, but they are essentially homeless and traveling from place to place. They eventually end up on a studio backlot, which leads them walking into the wrong door, putting them live in the middle of a music reality-tv program. There’s an aneurism-inducing musical sequence, and they’re eventually arrested and thrown in the slammer. I firmly believe that it was at this point when my astral-body left me, and my brain went into auto-pilot mode, because everything was a blur from this point on. There’s some minion-jailhouse humor and of course, a jailbreak, and towards the end of the movie, they are brought back into the story in order to appease the younger crowd and remain relevant.

Another major feature of this story is the introduction of Gru’s twin brother, Dru, who is also cleverly voiced by Steve Carell. Gru and Dru are the yin and yang to each other, even in their interests and behaviorisms. Dru is a likable character, and he is fun, easy-going and is all about the villain lifestyle, even if he’s not that experienced with it. Their parents apparently decided to split them up at birth, making a vow to not tell either of them about the existence of the other. When Dru’s father dies, he discovers that he has a brother and invites Gru and the girls to come meet him. Gru takes him up on his offer, and they eventually form a connective bond with one another. There’s another slight side-story with regards to Lucy’s character arc and how she is now a “Mom” to Gru’s girls and she is trying to come into her own in that role. Not much is spent developing her arc, and it’s a lazy attempt at keeping her character somewhat relevant in the scheme of the action. Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), whom plays their oldest daughter has a useless love-story angle, but it’s peppered into the filling of the story and is utilized for wasted comedic value and to enhance Lucy’s story arc. Also, if you’re expecting any involvement from the middle child, Edith (Dana Gaier), I’m sorry but it’s as if her character doesn’t even exist in this film. I guess they’re just trying to be realistic as far as how it really feels to be a middle child in real life.

The most enjoyable things found throughout this movie were the emotional moments of the story (which were few and far between) the new major character additions, and the 80’s soundtrack. Everyone does great voice work, and the new and returning cast of characters all lend great spirit to their roles, but I had just hoped for a more conclusive and constructive story. At times, it feels as if this film is trying to go in several different directions at once. My son and I also noticed that Agnes’ voice sounded different, and sure enough, her character was replaced. The previous voice actress, Elsie Fisher, has now been replaced by Nev Scharrel, which I’m assuming is due to aging issues. This in hindsight is of little to no consequence, but it does highlight the fact that these characters are growing up and the story is changing, so anything could happen with these films in the future. For little ones, this film has a lot of laughable moments and heavy action which will make your tiny tots smile, but parents, I hope you remember your “Get Out of Jail Free!” card.

Final Word