Third Times the Harm for Illumination's Despicable Me 3

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Despicable Me 3

Gru and the Minions are back in DESPICABLE ME 3, and don't we wish they weren't.

Being the father of a 9-year-old boy, I find that I endure a number of fart jokes, butt jokes, and madcap chases that often involve underpants (usually worn over the head for unfathomable reasons). So I wasn't too surprised when the begging began to go and see DESPICABLE ME 3. But it's a cartoon, and the Minions have always been kind of funny, so I relented, opting to go to a local drive-in theater for the experience. (Note to self: when selecting a drive-in theater, make sure that (a) it isn't located next to a frequently-used railroad crossing and (b) it's not a weekend popularized by people setting off fireworks and other explosives.)

There are a few things going on in this film, and I'm not really sure any of them are the main plot thread. We begin with Balthazar Bratt (TREY PARKER), a child television star from the 80s who lost his series and went on to believe he really was the genius super-villain he portrayed on the screen. Somehow, without explanation, he really did become a genius super-villain, complete with giant robots and self-inflating bubble gum traps. He's perpetually trapped in the 80s, wearing shoulder pads and carrying a customized mix tape for all his capers that sounds like the track list for NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL THE 80s. He tries to steal the world's largest diamond, but is defeated by Gru (STEVE CARELL) and Lucy (KRISTEN WIIG). Gru, the villain from the first movie, is still reformed and working to stop and capture other super-villains of the world now. While Gru prevents the theft, he fails to capture Bratt, again, which causes him and Lucy to lose their jobs as anti-villainy agents.

Gru's life gets more complicated when Mel, the leader of the yellow unintelligible minions, leads a revolt after coming to terms with the fact that Gru is never going to go back to villainy. The minions walk out and begin their own little side adventure, which was infinitely more amusing. Gru also gets notification that he has a twin brother he never knew about, Dru. According to Gru's mother (JULIE ANDREWS), the twins were split up in a custody arrangement, and Gru's father hadn't died of shame and disappointment after all. Dru (also voiced by CARELL) wants to drag Gru back into the villainy business, something which Dru finds exciting but in which he has zero experience. Gru agrees with Dru, but only to use Dru's vast technological resources in order to pull off a heist of the world's biggest diamond -- which Bratt has now successfully already stolen. Basically, Gru is trying to do good under the guise of doing bad.

The requisite silliness is there from the prior films (among which we must count MINIONS), but the villain is entrenched so deeply in a bygone decade that the target audience can't relate to the iconography used to define his motives and methods. The side plots, involving the rebel Minions making their way in the world, Gru's youngest daughter going on a quest for a real unicorn, and Lucy finding acceptance as a mother, all detract from the main plot, which could have used all the ancillary support it could have gotten.

There wasn't anything really new here, but more tragically, there wasn't any of the magic of the old DESPICABLE ME franchise either.

3.5 / 5.0