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Film Reviews Review: Despicable Me 3 finds that two Grus aren’t better than one

The minions return in Despicable Me 3, which introduces Dru, the twin brother of Gru.

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Despicable Me 3
Written by
Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio
Directed by
Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin
Starring
Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker
Genre
Family
Classification
G
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2017

Steve Carell is one funny guy and he carries the Despicable Me franchise on his shoulders. Or rather Gru, his delicious creation – part grouch, part maniac, part parent – carries it on his shoulders. Sometimes unctuous but mainly annoyed, the supervillain turned superhero stands at the apex of a highly effective comic triangle. The two bottom corners are occupied by a mischievous army of little yellow minions on one side and an adorable trio of little pink girls on the other. As Gru abandons his life of crime to join the Anti-Villain League and accepts his role as the girls' adoptive father, his relationship with these joyful and anarchic forces is the key to the fun.

And that brings us to Despicable Me 3, the fourth movie in the franchise after the minions got their very own prequel feature last summer. This time, the minions wind up in jail, the girls are busy bonding with Gru's new wife and fellow secret agent, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and Gru is getting acquainted with his long-lost twin brother Dru, also voiced by Carell. You might think two Grus would be even better than one, but what actually happens is the crucial triangle that made the first two films both sweet and funny is ruptured.

There's a sense right from the start the franchise's reliable writers, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, are sweeping characters out of the way to make room for Carell's new double act: Dr. Nefario, mad scientist and minion keeper, has been inexplicably frozen. Meanwhile, the minions themselves quickly give up trying to chip him out and, with little justification, stage a revolt against Gru and decamp.

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Gru, Lucy and the girls fly off in a different direction, to a land called Freedonia to meet the long-lost Dru, but this doppelganger is less amusing than his twin. He's supposed to play to Gru's insecurities – he has a palace, a mass of blond hair and joie de vivre – but the character isn't strongly enough established before Gru is inevitably bailing him out of some nefarious plan gone awry. Obliged to create a voice that can distinguish Dru from Gru, Carrell offers a softer, less distinctive character. As a giggly Gru and cooing Dru explain "it's a twin thing," you can empathize with the deep boredom emanating from Lucy and the girls.

The villain of the piece is former 1980s child star Balthazar Bratt, who is seeking revenge on Hollywood for the collapse of his career. The juvenile villain is something of a retread of the Vector character from the first movie and although Trey Parker voices this obnoxious man-child with glee, all the jokes about eighties clothes, music and hair styles feel tired – at least to one who actually had to live through the decade.

The other comic motif is Freedonia, some Eastern European village full of very happy pigs and less happy inhabitants, portrayed as a series of bloated caricatures that seem more insulting than hilarious. By the midpoint, the movie, which is directed by three different people – franchise regular Pierre Coffin gets help from Éric Guillon and Kyle Balda – is dragging badly.

A splashy ending does something to redeem the action before setting up the characters for a potential sequel but who needs more Dru? Perhaps Minions 2, already announced for summer 2020, should close the door on the Despicable party.

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