2017 has brought us installments of the Transformers, Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fast and the Furious, Alien, King Kong, X-Men, and Cars franchises. Seeing that we’re barely halfway through the year, it should come as a surprise to no one that Universal Studios decided to continue the Despicable Me series with a third episode in the life of not-so-diabolical supervillain, Gru. Somewhere along the line, I guess he decided to switch teams, because he now works for the good guys and his nemesis is a former child actor in a purple jumpsuit with a hairstyle that would give Chester Arthur a run for his money. The nemesis’ evil plan consists of stealing a big, fat, pink diamond and… that’s it. I’m not really sure how that’s going to help him take over the world, but this movie isn’t concerned with those kinds of banalities.
Part of the problem is that there are too many plotlines competing for our attention and whenever any one of them gains momentum, it disappears. Gru gets fired from his job and vows to get another one but is interrupted by the discovery of a long-lost twin brother. His brother wants him to return to villainy, but Gru is committed to a life of virtue. Go figure. In the meantime, Gru’s wife is desperate for the children to think of her as more than just a stepmother. The doe-eyed youngest daughter is on a quest to find a unicorn and the moody teenage daughter is trying not to fall in love with a foreigner. Nobody cares much about the middle child. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Minions, who were so popular they got their own spin-off movie two years ago. These infamous, yellow Tic-Tacs, who speak in a broken amalgam of various European languages, abandon Gru for renouncing his evil ways and decide to forge their own path. The movie checks in on their progress whenever the story begins to lag.
Generally speaking, if there’s a number after a movie title, it corresponds directly to the amount of headaches I’m going to have while watching it. There’s a lot about this movie that isn’t necessarily bad, but just weird. For one thing, the soundtrack is all composed of 80’s dance songs. I can’t express how bizarre it is for a studio to do this in a movie whose target audience probably doesn’t exceed the age of nine. How much does it cost to use Michael Jackson in your movie? I’m guessing a lot.
If I’m being completely honest, there’s nothing original about this film. The ending is lifted straight out of 2004’s The Incredibles, and everything else is just sort of playing off the groundwork of the Despicable Me franchise. This may come as a surprise, but I actually enjoyed the original. It’s not the best animated movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s not the worst. Gru is a character who only wants to commit evil acts and I respect that. I was kind of disappointed to see how much they had sanitized him.
But I’m being cynical. For parents hoping to see an afternoon movie with the family, this is a fine choice. It’s light entertainment and, although some of the jokes may fall a little flat, there’s enough action and slapstick to satisfy an average child. Adults and teenagers probably won’t get a kick out of it, but that’s fine. They were not trying to make a masterpiece here. It’s a charming, wholesome, carefree comedy for the kids and that’s all it needs to be.