Steve Carell expands his memorable villain-turned-good Gru into a dual role as his twin brother Dru while Kristen Wiig also returns to the fold as his wife Lucy who works with Gru in the Anti-Villain League (AVL) in Despicable Me 3.
The computer animated comedy/adventure is Illumination Entertainment’s eighth feature film in ten years, and the third installment in this increasingly popular film franchise, filled with Gru’s helpers, the Minions, legions of tiny yellow capsule-shaped creatures who provide immense comedy throughout the story.
Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda team up again after their first animated spin-off feature, Minions, with help from their co-director Eric Guillon, an experienced animation filmmaker helming his first feature film. Chris Renaud does not direct this time, but contributes as both executive producer and Minion voice talent.
Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio again wrote the screenplay (Sergio Pablos co-wrote the second installment with them). The talented screenwriters introduce several family themes and new character plot lines. And although the Minion’s melees entertain, they are mainly separate from the main story until their paths conveniently (and predictably) cross paths.
Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Trey Parker (South Park, Book of Mormon) voices the formidable antagonist Balthazar Bratt who has a simple backstory that defines his motives while entertaining audiences with nostalgic references, outdated antics and a relentless spirit/grudge concerning his past. Great voice work parts like this one increase his chance to complete a coveted EGOT with an Oscar, which he could have won already with the “Blame Canada” song in 1999 (Phil Collins won instead for “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Disney’s Tarzan). Balthazar is accompanied by Clive the Robot, voiced by British actor Andy Nyman, who does a decent job with limited screen time, but there was missed potential.
Gru’s mom, voiced by Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music), makes a welcome, but short return in this third installment to bridge the family’s past. Dr. Nefaro, previously voiced by Russell Brand, is only referenced and does not have any spoken lines.
The filmmakers also relegate another important family figure to an appearance-only reference, which might open more character development possibilities for two male main characters in future installments…yes, there will likely be more (the ending keeps that possibility open).
Carell mentioned this third installment might be the last time he voices the now classic Gru character (plus now Dru), but success could easily change that decision. Unless the producers replace Carell just like they replaced Elsie Fisher with Nev Scharrel as Gru and Lucy’s youngest adoptive daughter Agnes in this outing. Of course the replacement for Agnes makes sense, since Fisher is now much older than she was in the original Despicable Me.
Miranda Cosgrove still voices the oldest daughter Margo who must contend with unique, but short predicament mainly meant to development Lucy’s character and progress all the girls’ bond with her. Dana Gaier also returns as the voice of the mischievous Edith who filmmakers basically align with the equally mischievous Minions. Neither daughter gets much to do amid the brisk 90-minute screenplay.
Gru and Lucy’s involvement in the AVL includes a new director named Valerie Da Vinci, voiced by Jenny Slate, who is notoriously underused here. Steve Coogan (The Secret Lives of Pets) also returns as Silas Ramsbottom, a head figure in the AVL and as Dru’s butler Fritz.
The colorful and entertaining film does not take many risks and follows many predictable paths. The surprisingly short sequence minimizes the predictability while catering to the young child audience. Jokes about being an overprotective father work well, but the visual gags work best, especially a dinner sequence where audiences will be laughing as hard as the featured characters.
Many references are self-serving like the Minion subplot where they find themselves in the singing contest with a Sing marque above the judge’s table. Filmmakers take full advantage of the animated realm with amazing action sequences and epic camera shots that would be impossible using traditional methods while retaining continuity of the cast, crew and most popular elements.
Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams returns to orchestrate the musical score and songs/themes. Pharrell produces several catchy songs like “Yellow Light” while Pereira keeps the mood light and entertaining. Filmmakers also include several memorable 80s classics to align with Balthazar. Parker even teams with Pharell on the Hug Me song track.
The Minions are also featured on several comedic and musically impressive tracks like “Tiki Tiki Babeloo,” “Papa Mama Loca Pipa,” and “Malatikalano Polatina.”
No real tension here as a character solves the main conflict through pop culture knowledge. No strategy or real payoff or surprise here just fast progression, but still on a highly entertaining level. Despicable Me 3 also repeats elements from other popular films like a dance-off (Guardians of the Galaxy) and giving the bad guys a head start (most recently The LEGO Batman Movie).
Recommended with a few reservations; rated PG for action and rude humor. Look for Minions 2 next (scheduled for 2020, but that will likely be move up on the release calendar).