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‘Despicable Me 3’ Finds The Right Zany Balance (Movie Review)

I’ve been somewhat harsh on Illumination Entertainment over the years. With no real affinity for minions, in particular, it’s been hard to jive with their Looney Tunes-inspired antics. It’s a shame, as I like the premise for the first Despicable Me and really would have liked to have taken to it. Well, perhaps I’ve been worn down or maybe Sing was the start of a new breed of Illumination films, as I enjoyed Despicable Me 3. It may not be trying as hard to hit certain emotional beats like the first two films, but perhaps that worked in its favor. The zany antics kept me smiling, there were new, catchy Pharrell songs to be heard and best of all, I was amused by the minions this time.

Yes, those little yellow creatures that have somehow entertained much of the world have a role in this film that made me laugh a few times. Rather than seeing them as a means for merchandising, I felt invested in a subplot that sees the minions sent to prison and the genuine hilarity that ensues. It’s silly, and their little noises provided by the film’s co-director Pierre Coffin are still not about to endear me to them, but it worked.

The main plot features a reformed Gru (Steve Carell) working with his new wife Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to take down supervillain/former child star Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker). Balthazar is looking to get his hands on a huge diamond for nefarious purposes and the Anti-Villain League needs to stop him. While this is going on, Gru also discovers he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru (also Carell). This relationship is explored, which means the whole family (including Gru’s three adopted daughters) go for a trip to Gru’s home country. It also means seeing two men showing off the continued potential they have for despicable villainy.

Dealing with a long-lost brother honestly sounds like the framework for an un-produced Shrek sequel, but the concept is so slight it seems to keep the film relaxed. While there are still plenty of big comedic set piece moments and a good amount of action, it feels less like the movie is screaming at you to like it. The main characters are established well enough at this point and with the minions only featured in separate doses, I was happy to see everyone presented with a few new characters and storylines that served a relatively straightforward purpose.

The film is funny without trying to aggressively win you over and clinging too hard to some of its clever conceits. Little moments shine thanks to stylized depictions of the real world, without relying on pop culture to do the heavy lifting for the jokes. The cuteness seen in the kids is balanced by the reactions the adult characters have to comprehend the loose sense of logic in the world of these films. And really, there’s a lot of genuine wackiness that worked for me.

Something I’ve always admired with these Despicable Me films is having a cast who try to play with their voices. Carell is pulling double duty this time around and Parker is playing a (much) lighter version of a South Park character, but how about Julie Andrews continuing to go for it as Gru and Dru’s mother? Steve Coogan and Jenny Slate are only featured in a couple of scenes, but they also go deep into their characters. It’s an admirable aspect when compared to other animated films that simply have celebrities as themselves.

The real thing that keeps me invested in these Despicable Me films is the guarantee that Pharrell will at least be contributing fun songs to the soundtrack. It works out that I liked this movie, but once again, I was not disappointed in new tracks such as “Yellow Light,” “Freedom” and “Doowit.” For whatever reason, Pharrell adds a particular feel to the film through his music that I can’t help but enjoy his spirited contributions, which ultimately helps these films.

Whether or not inevitable Despicable Me 4/Minions 2: The Spawning has me just as positive or at least in the same mood, this movie was fun. Not in the league of a Pixar masterpiece or an underrated DreamWorks effort, but good enough to keep me interested in what else Illumination can come up with. Despicable Me 3 is filled with fun, vibrant animated energy that proves to work for what it’s doing. The story is fine and allows for a couple of solid character moments, so while I may come down a bit hard on the previous entries, I can at least say this joins into what has proven to be enjoyable efforts for many others.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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