Third time is kind of a charm for the Despicable Me franchise. The movies in this series go in waves, with the first being really good, to the second being not so good, to the Minions movie being pretty good, to this one coming in second, at least in my humble opinion.
Ex-Villain Gru (Steve Carrell) and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are fired from the Anti-Villain League after failing to stop the 80’s-themed super villain Balthzar Bratt (Trey Parker) from stealing the world’s largest diamond. Gru then gets word that he actually has a brother, Dru (also Steve Carrell) and together, they take back the diamond.
If only the above synopsis were that simple though. My main problem, getting the elephant out of the room is that this film suffers from character and plot overload. The A-Plot of Gru and Dru is great and possibly the best part of the movie aside from whenever the villain / Minions (I’ll talk about them later) are onscreen, but the other plots are varying from too long to nonexistent.
Gru and Dru’s relationship plot is marred by jealousy from both sides. Gru is jealous of Dru’s wealth and Dru is jealous of his brother’s villainy. Yes they eventually fight, and yes they eventually make up, and the latter is done in a 30-second slapdash apology scene. Though the minute-break between seeing an angry Dru disowning his brother then later eating tubs of ice cream in regret was humorous yet done before. The good side is watching the same actor playing off of himself and Carrell does this brilliantly. There are a lot of great lines and still frames of the two, particularly when they impersonate each other to confuse the family, and while they don’t buy it, it provides for deeper character interaction.
Bratt’s plot is that he used to be a child star where he was a super villain, but his age caught up to him and the show was cancelled. He now exacts revenge on Hollywood (and also on Gru, for some reason?) for ruining his life. His schtick is the 1980s, from shoulder-pads to cassette tapes, to having a Simon game, to chewing gum all of the time, to having a mullet, to having a Rubik’s Cube smoke bomb (and secret hideout topper), to having a giant robot of himself, to moonwalking on water, to having a key-tar weapon, to the line I’ll be using out-of-context, “Son of a Betamax!” the character literally has it all. He does everything right from a character perspective, but as with a lot of this film, all of the ideas were used instead of only the best. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what they were going for with this film, but it feels somewhat overstuffed.
Other plots in the film include: Lucy wanting to gain the girls’ trust as a mother (she does, in a really cute final scene of Agnes calling her “Mom”), Margo finding that she should try things once even though the outcome is uncertain (she participated in an old town custom that leaves her with a jilted lover. Yeah, I’m confused, too), and Agnes and Edith trying to find a unicorn (she does, with Edith in tow, though it is a goat, and she loves it anyways)…
And then it hit me. This film is about acceptance:
Gru accepts Dru by the end as a family member
Dru accepts that while he may not be the best villain, he’s still a villain
Lucy accepts her role as a mother to these kids
Margo accepts the custom at the festival
Edith accepts her siblings wishes to have a unicorn and goes along with it
Agnes accepts the goat even though it is not a unicorn
Bratt does not accept the fame that he has been given, and instead wants to relive his childhood years instead of growing up and becoming a productive member of society
And then there’s the Minions…
I’ve gone from liking these guys to downright hating them, and then back. These little yellow ovals have gone from “Okay, you’re pretty funny” to “Alright, already” to “Please stop, go away” to “Alright, this is more like it”.
Let me explain:
The Minions are a group of characters that mainly drag in kids and some adults with their childish antics. For the most part they’re funny is smaller doses, but lately several animated films since the original Despicable Me has some kind of Minion-type group of characters, most notably the elves from Rise of the Guardians and the lemmings from Norm of the North. The market has also been saturated with them: shirts, plushes, ads, bus sides, graffiti, phone backgrounds, and more, the Minions are everywhere.
In this film, they outright quit and leave Gru, something that should have been done from the start, and while retreading some ground from the Minions movie (the Minions reacting to their surroundings naturally), it really works here. They stumble onto an American Idol-type soundstage and audition with “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” in traditional Minion-gibberish, but get arrested for breaking onto the lot. What ensues is one of the better scenes in the movie, where the Minions are in jail. They soon become the tough guys of the prison and steal equipment to craft a flying machine and escape. They also mess with anyone they come across, and this is their best use: confusing the general public, because, honestly, we’d all have the same reaction coming across these little guys.
The animation is also incredibly good, but that is now the standard of films today. Dru’s hair is always impeccable, the clothing fabric looks real, and the water looks great as well, but there is not much innovation anymore. It’s all the same. Midway through the film I wondered if the studios shared software for hair and water, as it all looks the same now. Also to mention, the animation has a lot of squash and stretch, which hearkens back to a somewhat Warner Brothers-type style.
In hindsight, I was initially really hard on this film, but after some reflection, it isn’t all that bad. The characters are solid, and while there are some flaws in the plot structure, I guess I will just have to accept this film.