From its very first outing, Despicable Me was always going to be that one franchise that fans enjoyed watching and producers had no problem milking. The blockbuster series has already spawned an “okay” sequel and an unnecessary Minions spinoff. Now, Despicable Me 3 is faced with a burning question—where do we go from here?
Twin brothers! A washed-up ‘80s villain! Family drama! Unicorns! More Minions! Honestly, any one of these could have made an excellent story. Strangely, Despicable Me 3 decided to cram all of these into a relatively short movie, as if it didn’t have enough budget to milk this into a ten-movie franchise. Even stranger, the movie still comes back to the same elements that made its predecessors adorable. The franchise’s third outing is narratively bloated. There’s so much going on but it’s charming in almost the same sense of its original.
Depending on which trailer or marketing piece you’ve seen prior to watching, Despicable Me 3 is about either Gru vs. Balthazar Bratt, a failed-child-star-turned-supervillain stuck in the ‘80s; or, Gru meets Dru, his long-lost twin brother. Regardless of which, you’re getting both. It takes a bit of mental work to track each subplot as the action happens. Thankfully, each share enough screen time that you’re not likely to get lost amidst everything. And it’s not a heavy movie; you won’t get lost.
Voiced by South Park’s Trey Parker, Bratt was a more iconic villain than the first one’s Vector, owing mostly to his ‘80s knickknacks and soundtracks. He just didn’t carry as much gravitas. It always felt that Bratt was there just because they needed a villain to spoil Gru’s day. Our black-clad antihero’s development stuck mostly on his struggle to be a good dad versus helping Dru become a true supervillain. Bratt was just… there.
While Bratt truly was memorable as a villainy gimmick, Despicable Me 3 sings harmoniously when it focuses on Gru’s family. In fact, this is how Despicable Me won hearts and minds as a franchise. Not when Gru goes up against an even dastardlier villain, but when Gru tries to be an endearing father for his three adopted kids. Despicable Me 3 is still chockfull of these moments, added greatly by Lucy trying to be a good mother for the kids. For his part, Dru was a tolerable character that I wouldn’t mind seeing in future installments. As far as dual-role protagonists go (i.e. box office stinkers Norbit and Jack & Jill), Dru didn’t overplay the I’m-just-the-protagonist-in-costume gag. He was recognizable as a good buildup for a worthy foil to Gru. He exists as his own character.
Lastly, let’s not forget the Minions. Unfortunately. We’ve had those yellow blobs for three movies now (one of which was truly their own). One has to wonder if they’ve exhausted their novelty. Instead of being a funny supporting cast for Gru, the Minions leave him and embark on their own adventure. Until the very last action sequence, the Minions existed on their own narrative plane without affecting much of Gru’s storyline. While they did have comical scenes, the Minions felt too shoehorned in. I didn’t need a separate Minions adventure. Sure, Despicable Me wouldn’t be much of a franchise without the little guys, but please, turn it down a notch.
Ultimately, Despicable Me will continue to churn out movie after movie because it appeals to different markets. As an adult, the movie’s family aspect appealed to me. I’m sure the Minion’s crass fart jokes will appeal to more youthful audiences. Sure, it’s not a great movie, but you don’t come here expecting one anyway. While it overreaches at times, Despicable Me 3 still reaches the high notes that made it a memorable film franchise.