CAUTION: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS FOR DESPICABLE ME (2010), DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013), MINIONS (2015), AND DESPICABLE ME 3 (2017) BELOW.
After the mixed and somewhat uncomfortable experience of Minions, we made it to Despicable Me 3, which thank goodness is a larger step in the right direction for the franchise compared to the aforementioned film. Overall we get a very fun, no nonsense, entertaining film with lots of laughs and little heart that fits in well with the previous Despicable Me entries, although it does have its small share of problems.
There is really only one issue with this film, albeit a somewhat large one, and that is the story. What's the problem with the story? Well, there's more than one story, several actually. You have the Minions (Pierre Coffin) walking out on Gru (Steve Carell) because they are tired of not doing evil deeds anymore (befuddling since the last movie all of the Minions seemed to be happy even though Gru was no longer a villain), you have Lucy (Kristen Wiig) trying to be a good new mother to Edith (Dana Gaier), Agnes (Nev Scharrel), and Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), you have Gru meeting his twin brother Dru (Steve Carell) for the first time and their relationship unfolding, you have the brief storyline of Gru figuring out how he didn't even know about his twin brother with his mother (Julie Andrews), you have Agnes searching for a unicorn with Edith, and you have the villain who is trying to have his second comeback after his childhood TV show went down the tubes. All in total, you are trying to balance six storylines, and while each of them are certainly compelling and amusing to watch, none of them completely go full circle, and we are left wanting more out of each of them. While it is nice to have different things going on to hold your interest, here there is just a tad too much to juggle and understand.
The villain Balthazar Bratt (portrayed by South Park's Trey Parker), is an enjoyable villain with a humorous laugh, but his backstory is one we have seen before, which in itself we can get over. However, he is still pretty one-note. He'll play an 80s song during his villainous deeds and villainous planning, and then he will say several times throughout the movie, "I'm a bad boy!" This, while maybe something Trey Parker would say on South Park (1997-), unfortunately does not mean much to the target audience of younger children.
Margo, Edith, and Agnes were a central plot point in the first film, and provided a lot of the emotional payoff at the conclusion of that film. However, progressively throughout these last two films, their roles in the story are getting smaller and smaller. It makes sense to focus on Gru since he is after all our main character, but the daughters end up feeling shoehorned in, in some spots. Margo is barely in the film with very little dialogue. Agnes and Edith have their share with a unicorn story, but beyond that, there's not much else.
One of the things that was go great about Despicable Me 3 was Gru and Dru and their shenanigans. Steve Carell once again provides a marvelously accented and comical voice as Gru, and offers something higher-pitched but a unique enough performance for Dru that we buy them being different characters. One of the funniest scenes in the film is when Gru and Dru pretend to be each other, which is the typical twin thing to do, but it comes across so successfully when the two of them are the only ones in the dining room who are laughing about it. Their sneak attack into Bratt's base is also one of the best scenes, with hilarious missteps from Dru and Gru trying to show him how break-ins are done. I wish we could've had more of that than we got!
We are also left with an ending that is somewhat perplexing. Dru ends up taking the helm of villain, stealing Gru's ship and taking the minions with him. We knew at the beginning of the film that the Minions were sad to not be villains any more, or at least sidekicks to villainous plots, hence the reason they run out on Gru (all but two of them anyway). But then it seems like they are all getting homesick and missing Gru, and help him save the day from Balthazar Bratt. It seemed like a quick turnaround to have the Minions decide to leave Gru again after finally reuniting with him and his family. No heartfelt goodbyes here. And from what we saw of Dru, it is hard to believe that he knows what he is doing at all in the world of espionage and villainy to become Gru's next nemesis. Whatever the case may be, this obviously leaves the door open for more Despicable Me films and adventures, and brotherly competition, which might be where the franchise is going if this is in fact not the end. All we know is that Minions 2 is hitting theaters on July 3, 2020. We'll see what happens there.
Despicable Me 3 is a funny, action-packed, and cool-looking animated film, and it succeeds as another entry in the Gru and Minion franchise. For this writer, the film ranks at #3 in the four films so far, preceded by Despicable Me 2 and the original at #1. Many people find the second one the best, but while conceding that the second one is the funniest, the first one just offers a more fulfilling story and emotional arc for all of the characters. The story and storylines are there in Despicable Me 3, and they are touching, but unfortunately there is just so much to unpack in each side plot that we don't get our complete fill. The characters are great and the gadgets are great, the voice performances are genuine and charismatic, and we get catchy, new traditional music by Pharrell Williams, but we're just left wanting a little more from all of it.
All the same, be sure to check it out if you haven't already; it will still please all ages. It's not a PIXAR film, but then it doesn't seem like it was trying to be.