Despicable Me 3 is harmlessly stupid but missed the chance to make a really good movie.
The title of this blog, if you're wondering, is a homage to Conspiracy Theory where SPOILERS!!! Patrick Stewart, as the bad guy, refers to the brain numbing chemical he administers to Mel Gibson's innocent Joe, as "gravy for the brain". I suggest DM3 is more like cotton candy for the brain. Cotton candy is pointless. It’s fun, fluffy and brightly colored, gives you a quick rush of pleasure but is not particularly satisfying, can give you cavities and if you eat too much will make you sick. Despicable Me 3, aside from the cavities part, is the cotton candy of movies.
Now – keep in mind I LIKE cotton candy. But in small amounts. As a 15 minute short DM3 would have been cute. But watching 90 minutes of the THIRD installment of this franchise is a bit much.
The premise of the trilogy is that Gru (Steve Carrel), a repentant super villain, has adopted the three orphan girls from the first movie, married Lucy (Kristen Wiig), a super “anti-villain” spy from the second movie and made a home and family for them all. Then a challenge to their situation comes when the new boss fires both Gru and Lucy. In a Fraternis ex Machina, Gru is summoned by his previously unknown rich twin brother, Dru, who wants to learn how to commit crimes. Problem is Gru gave up the life of crime for Lucy and the girls. Gru succumbs to the idea of reverting back to his old ways for just one more heist and calamities follow. Eventually Gru and his brother come to terms during a dangerous mission, Gru recommits to being a good guy and all’s well at the end. That’s a good thing and a nice moral to teach kids.
Lucy – the adoptive super spy mom – is very conscious of her responsibilities and is naturally very protective of her charges. That is a good thing too.
The orphan kids are cute and a side story about Agnes, the youngest learning there is no such thing as a unicorn is kind of adorable. Gru is very protective of the children’s innocence and strives to keep them that way – which is a very laudable attitude to portray. When Gru takes gentle command of the unicorn situation and explains the truth to her Agnes still loves the “scratched and dented” goat she thought was a unicorn. It is a very nice subplot and provides a surprisingly warm and developed moment of bonding between Gru the adoptive-Dad and Agnes. But those kinds of moments are few and far between.
This whole theme was far better fleshed out in Shrek Forever After – where Shrek, former ogre and now husband, father and hero to his neighbors, gets tired of his routine and wishes to be a real ogre again – an opportunity to be free of his responsibilities for a day and revert to his former bad ways – and then discovers the consequences of his wish are catastrophic.
Most of DM3 is preoccupied with silly slapstick forced into the story-line, butt wagging sight gags by the 1980's obsessed super villain Bratt, minion fart jokes, and other butt related “humor”. A little bit of “minion” goes a long way. But it is a one note joke – a plethora of plastic yellow Mexican jumping bean side kicks who speak a Slavic-like version of pig Latin and like to get into mischief – can only take you so far comedically. Unfortunately, they have beaten that dead horse flat as a pancake with these little pill shaped banana eaters.
The recurring motto "I've been a bad boy" of Bratt – former child star of Evil Bratt turned super villain – became cringe worthy annoying, the excerpts of Evil Bratt where the lead is a child villain who successfully gets to wreck havoc were frankly not something I would have wanted my child to see or wish to imitate, and the repetitive pseudo "sexy" '80's homage behind wiggling was really not appropriate for a movie aimed at young children.
The minions did have one shining moment however. Chased into a singing TV show competition, they break into a clever Minionese version of the "Major-General’s Song" from the Pirates of Penzance. This scene should end up on a Youtube somewhere so you don't have to sit through the whole movie to see it. If DM3 had put MORE class like that into their humor it would have been a far better movie. But instead of Bugs Bunny-ing more classics into the minion characters they mostly relied on the now extremely fatigued minion slap stick which has become their tired trademark.
The writers of Toy Story and Cars have upped their game and produced good movies with maturing characters and explored, in fun ways, some complex fundamental themes of human nature: what is the purpose of parents when their children grow up and leave home, overcoming jealousy and sharing authority, having the humility to hand over the crown when your time is up. But Despicable Me’s creators apparently do not have the courage for this but instead lean dependently on the same old vaudevillian banana slipping knee slaps.
Sadly, there was an opportunity to make a really good movie buried in the storyline: the minions seem to be able to do ANYTHING yet – they keep doing the SAME thing over and over and over and over and over whereas they could have done more classic take offs or made more capital out of their uniform cookie cutter physiques. Instead of continuing to act like a hive mind amoeba, they could have examined how to stand out in a crowd, played with the evils of an Orwellian 1984 or a Fritz Lang Metropolis-like work force where everyone is the same….but they didn’t.
Then there is Gru, the husband and father who wishes to relive his glory days, is enticed by an immature brother to moral regression, comes to grips with doing the right thing, learns that being a good father and an honest husband is vastly more valuable than all of the riches he used to think so important……….but alas, that is not the movie they made either, but merely the excuses for more mindless merriment.
There were tiny glimmers of what the authors were capable in the Agnes-Gru scene and the send up of the Pirates of Penzance, but it was only enough to make you hunger for more than the brain full of cotton candy that is Despicable Me 3.