Despicable Me 3 Review: Silliness That Only A Kid Could Love

Published on June 28, 2017

Also published on Medium.

My 9-year-old nephew gave me a stern warning over the phone before my Despicable Me 3 screening: “Auntie Mara, go in stupid.”

Fair enough. This is a candy-coated world, after all, in which a supervillain turned superagent named Gru once tried to steal the moon. And yellow minions, who speak gibberish and look like calorie-laden tater tots, have roamed the Earth since the Dinosaurs. Silliness reigns.

Now explain again why this franchise is a cultural phenomenon worth a grillion dollars?

Minions. Enough said. (Universal)

In the uninspired third go-round, the reformed bad guy (Steve Carell) and the feisty missus (Kirsten Wiig) lose their jobs. They pack up the kids and head to a place called Fredonia to meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother, Dru (Carrell again). Dru, an alleged rich hot shot with a full head of lush blonde hair, runs a pig farm (don’t ask). That’s just a cover for a villain business. But Dru is terrible at it, so Gru shows him the ropes. Meanwhile, the girls bond over a unicorn and a goat that may be a unicorn (don’t ask, the sequel).

The family eventually unites to battle a nemesis named Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker) — a former child TV star intent on destroying an industry that turned its back on him. Two Carells can’t add up to one amusing villain. Kids will lap up Balthazar’s super-vain sass; adults will admire his devotion to all things ‘80s. The mullet-haired dude pulls off a heist to Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” He works out to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” He owns a Rubik’s Cube. There are so many blatant retro references that I kept expecting Alf to pop up as his partner in crime.

What a pity: Gru (left) did not inherit the hair gene (Universal)

Still, the action is way more scatter-shot then sensible. A sense of utter joy is missing here. And even at 80-plus minutes, the story is stretched awfully thin. Obviously the writers are phoning it in — and desperate to make good use of cross-promotion — when the endearing minions escape from jail and end up invading the “set” of an entirely different movie from the Illumination Studios universe. Then again, perhaps finding razor-sharp wit and an imaginative story in an animated three-sequel is the cinematic equivalent of a unicorn.

(Despicable Me 3 opens Friday, June 30)

Also published on Medium.