Forget mobile phones, global Wi-Fi coverage, Facebook and MP3s, it’s infinitely more challenging to recall a world before the Minions. There isn’t a single piece of merchandise which hasn’t been adorned with Stuart, Kevin, Phil or Bob. You can buy a Stuart fluffy toy for £50 which says ‘Banana’ with a strangely French inflection. They’ve had their own standalone movie. Parent’s bins across the globe are full of broken pieces of yellow plastic tat retrieved from the cover of countless children’s magazines. It’s sometimes easy to forget they are characters out of the Despicable Me series. Illumination therefore would be clinically insane not to march on with the franchise starring master supervillain turned father and (partially) good egg Gru. Forget the morality of Beauty and the Beast, the emotion of My Life as a Courgette, the stunning visuals of Cars 3; a thousand little maniacs screaming ‘Cheesecake Sharapova’ for absolutely no reason make this the most anticipated children’s movie of the year. There is a problem however, and that problem is that Despicable Me 3 is really rather rubbish.
We open with an over-egged chase scene – already witnessed in full via the various trailers – detailing Gru’s inability to catch his current nemesis Balthazar Bratt, an 80s obsessed ex-child star turned super-villain voiced by South Park’s Trey Parker. This latest failure finds him thrown out of the Anti-Villain League and unemployed. Refusing to go back into crime, his minions revolt, his girls are forced to sell their most precious belongings to scrape together an income, and Gru is left pondering his future.
When Gru finds out he has a twin brother and travels with his family to visit, the story completely runs out of steam. The same jokes are wheeled out (Whaaaa?) and frantic chase scenes replace any form of comedy. It’s at this point you also start to realise, with the minions packing their bags due to Gru’s lack of villainy, that the little yellow fellows are not going to feature much. This is strange given that the psychopathic little immortals are the Despicable Me franchise’s main meal ticket. They occasionally appear in disjointed musical sections but these feel more like separate Minions mini-movies. The inclusion of Trey Parker as Bratt should have led the film down a wackier and potentially more biting track, yet there is no evidence to support this. Bratt’s backstory as a child star thrown away by the film studios once he hit puberty feels anecdotal, unexplored and unfunny. Gru’s family revelation is also described in a single emotionally and comically flat scene – maybe Julie Andrews, who voices Gru’s mother, gets paid per word these days?
The ending comfortably sets up a Despicable Me 4, and you get the feeling that this was the whole point of Despicable Me 3. It will undoubtedly make a fortune at the box office because of the vast audience already invested in the characters, but using that solely as the basis of a movie rather than make one that’s any good is a risky track to follow. Just cuddle your fluffy Stuart and prey to the God of French Bananas for a Minions 2.
Dir: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Scr: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Cast: Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Pierre Coffin
Prd: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri
Music: Heitor Pereira, Pharrell Williams
Run Time: 90 Minutes