Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Despicable Me 3

Of the many films Illumination has animated over the years, their most well-known are related to the Despicable Me franchise. So far, this series has spawned three movies and a spin-off, though nothing that could quite capture the magic of the original Despicable Me film. The most recent entry, Despicable Me 3, prominently advertised Trey Parker’s involvement in early trailers. While the most recent outing is more ambitious in its plot, it too ultimately falls short of the original.

Following the events of Despicable Me 2, Gru (Steve Carell) is working with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) from the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to prevent a supervillain named Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing the world’s largest diamond from a cargo ship. Although Gru prevents Bratt from stealing the diamond, he is unable to capture Bratt himself. As he has continually been unable to capture Bratt, the AVL fires Gru and Lucy, leaving them jobless until they can find something else to do. Because Gru refuses to return to villainy, all but two of his Minions (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) leave him. In this time of need, Gru learns of the existence of his long-lost brother Dru (Steve Carell), who leads a wealthy lifestyle in the country of Freedonia. Meanwhile, Lucy is trying to adapt to her role as mother for Gru’s adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel).

Gru (Steve Carell) learns of his brother Dru (Steve Carell) and
decides to resume his previous life of villainy.

Although the story presents some interesting ideas, the presence of six plots, one main plot and five sub-plots, leads to some issues. Despite Illumination’s best efforts to balance all of them within 90 minutes, they all end up diluting each other as they fight for precious space. For instance, two of the sub-plots, which are related to Lucy’s plot of becoming a mother, resolve themselves very quickly and end with the introduction of what they may hope is another marketable character. Additionally, although the Minions are handled a bit better here than they were in their own movie, their plot escalates rather quickly each time they’re onscreen until they inevitably become relevant to the main plot again. The end result might have been stronger if they had removed at least one sub-plot to better develop the others. Either way, it may be worth noting that Edith has had the least character development of the three girls after three movies.

The most prominent plots involve two original characters, Balthazar Bratt and Dru. Dru’s existence is a bit surprising, partially since it comes from a pool of stories usually reserved for when you’re out of ideas. For the most part, he and Gru have a chemistry (helped by Steve Carell voicing both characters) and have a number of differences which help them feel different from one another. When all is said and done, however, it seems that Illumination plans to have Dru appear in a potential Despicable Me 4, which may feel like a blessing or a curse depending on how the viewer reacts to Dru’s personality. Still, Steve Carell is able to voice the brothers differently enough in tone and mannerisms that they are distinct from each other in conversation.

As for supervillain Balthazar Bratt, he is by far the most entertaining new addition. He has a very interesting backstory as a child star who suffered endless mockery in puberty, angering him to the point where he actually believed he was the supervillain he played on TV. His obsession with the 1980s ties into this, being when he was at his peak, and gives him an interesting array of gadgets, including a smoke bomb triggered by a self-solving Rubik’s Cube, and his habit of singing and dancing popular songs from the decade. Trey Parker is a perfect match for the character, as his voice acting makes him a very likable villain. However, viewers familiar with his previous work may recognize his distinct vocal range, which may make one very small twist in the middle of the movie less effective. I’ll also admit that my enjoyment of Trey Parker’s character may be informed at least somewhat from being a fan of his more adult-oriented collaborations with Matt Stone, including South Park, Team America: World Police and The Book of Mormon.

Trey Parker is entertaining as supervillain Balthazar Bratt.

As with other movies from Illumination, the animation is rather impressive, especially with their ability to make certain shots feel like they’re in 3D even though it’s a 2D print. However, while downplayed from previous installments, Despicable Me 3 still unnecessarily indulges in toilet humor every once in a while. Additionally, as more of an observation, it continues the trend of using Pharrell Williams for pop songs.

Despicable Me 3 is an immediate improvement over Minions, but still cannot completely recapture the magic of the original Despicable Me. Both the stellar animation and Trey Parker’s enjoyable take on a creative villain are not enough to balance out the film’s overabundance of diluted plots. While the ending somewhat overtly sets up a sequel, one can only wonder what direction a Despicable Me 4 could possibly go in. If you’re a fan of the Despicable Me series and can’t get enough of it, this is the movie for you. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of Trey Parker, you’re in for a great performance.

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