Movie review: Despicable Me 3

SINGAPORE: One day, Despicable Me will go the way of Shrek, Ice Age and other similar animated franchises where the brilliance of the original will diminish as the number of instalments increase. You know, that downward franchise trajectory where ensuing story plots start to bloat, the jokes begin to grate, the antics tired and all involved accused of phoning it in purely for the paycheck.

Despicable Me 3 (Source: Movie still)

Not for Gru and gang. Not yet at least.

Four films in (including the spin-off Minions), the Despicable Me franchise shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, by the time you get to the fourth instalment of any franchise – let alone an animated one – there’s always that niggling feeling of having exhausted all the tricks to keep your audience interested. And which is why Despicable Me 3 cleverly goes back to what made the original a runaway box office success: To focus on supervillain-turned-superdad Gru, family dynamics and that all-important heart in the storytelling; all the while, making sure the Minions are unleashed in acceptable doses.

Everyone knows that the nonsense-babbling, banana-obsessed, yellow runts are the main reasons why these movies have collectively made billions at the box office (and we are not counting merchandise yet). But let’s be honest, the Minions are at their scene-stealing comedic best when they are the annoying but adorable sidekicks and not the main stars running rampant.

Here, the mischievous bobs go on strike after having enough of Gru’s good guy makeover, in search for another supervillain to serve. The result? Side-splitting adventures that don’t overreach or overstay their welcome.

And in keeping with the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage, the film gives fans exactly what they want – zany gags in the spirit of the Looney Tunes, bubblegum pop culture references and catchy songs all delivered in breakneck speed.

Plus, the gang is all back, with the inimitable Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig perfectly voice-cast as the lovey-dovey spies Gru and Lucy, out to rid the world of evil while taking care of their three adopted daughters Margo, Edith and unicorn-mad Agnes. The addition of Gru’s long lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell) to the proceedings is a neat plot to advance what could be stagnant proceedings but the best scenes and biggest laughs belong to the all-new supervillain Balthazar Bratt (South Park and Book of Mormon creator Trey Parker).

As a resentful former 80s child star with a mullet, Bratt’s sociopathy was set off only after his show was cancelled, and his hilarious plans to take down Hollywood are simply recycled plots from his TV show. Having a supervillain who carries out all his criminal heist backed by a 1980s soundtrack that includes Michael Jackson, A-Ha, Van Halen and Madonna is comedy genius and a sure-fire way to get the parents in the audience laughing out loud alongside the Minion-loving kids.

While this fourth installation will never be as fresh as the first one, Despicable Me 3 succeeds in where many sequels always fail; franchises don’t also have to yield to the next new gimmick or choose a completely different dark and morose route to keep audiences interested. All one needs is to keep to the spirit and heart of what worked before. And that occasional silly Minion fart joke. Used sparingly of course.

Genevieve Loh’s rating: 3. 5 stars out of 5

Source CNA/ Movie still photo