Review: “Despicable Me 3” serves up more laughs, more Minions hijinks and a hilarious villain

The Despicable Me franchise has been very good to Illumination Entertainment and Universal since the original runaway hit starring Steve Carell first hit the theaters in 2010. After they hit a home run again with the 2013 sequel and subsequent Minions spinoff movie in 2015, the whole gang returns for a crowd-pleasing new adventure that is surprisingly light on Minions but heavy on family bonding.

After Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) lose their jobs at the AVL (Anti-Villain League) after failing to catch super villain Balthazar Bratt, they come to find out Gru has a long lost twin brother Dru who was raised by their father and they decide to go with the adorable sisters Margo, Edith and Agnes to visit him in Freedonia. The Minions, having tired of Gru’s reluctance to become a super villain again despite being unemployed, have left him — except for the wisecracking dup Dave and Jerry, thankfully — but soon end up in jail for trespassing. Although they do end up quickly missing him so much that they attempt a reunion, it is a noticeable difference in that they were so integral to the actual plot of Despicable Me 2.

Nevertheless, the extended time given to Lucy’s attempts to become a mother to the girls is a sweet subplot that is ripe for character development and while the hilarious of exploits of Dru and Gru doing some brotherly bonding while scheming to get back at Balthazar is understandably the main plot, these tender moments of the movie with the children help balance out some of the (at times) over-the-top gross out humor — but hey, it’s summer and the kids love this sort of stuff!

Parents will get a kick out of Balthazar Bratt (hilariously voiced by South Park’s Trey Parker), a former 80’s child star who became famous playing a child super villain but is now determined to teach Hollywood a lesson for cancelling his old show. Some of the 80’s jokes (an army of toy robots in his likeness that are called the “Bratt Pack”) and rapid-fire musical cues will fly over kids’ heads but are great fun for us older folks. The addition of Parker is a great coup and I hope the character of Balthazar returns in a future sequel or as the star of his own short.

My kids have grown up with these movies so they were simply happy to see all of their favorite characters returning, but Despicable Me is Illumination’s pride and joy for good reason. The formula simply works, and indeed adding Minions to any scene is going to guarantee laughs from the little ones, but the inventiveness of the plot and its mature treatment of Lucy made it a worthy chapter in the series. The ending certainly teases a forthcoming chapter, with perhaps with a bigger role for Dru. The almost total opposite of Gru — one prefers wearing black and the other white as well as having, you know, hair — Dru could have been an awkward fit existing solely for the purpose of shoehorning new characters into Despicable Me 3, but it worked in a charming way thanks to the talents of Carell, who again does fine work here pulling double duty no less. My family really enjoyed watching it together and we can’t wait to see what the filmmakers come up with next.

Despicable Me 3 opens today, Friday June 30, in theaters across the U.S.

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