I went into ‘Despicable Me 3’ with the hope that in the best case it would surpass my expectations for a third movie in a series. In the worst case, it would ruin the “Despicable Me” franchise for me. Predictably, the movie lingered in between, neither pleasantly stunning me nor falling completely flat.
One of the centralized themes that made the “Despicable Me” franchise so charming was its focus on love and parenting. The first movie was charismatic, captivating audiences as they watched Gru’s life change with the love of his adopted girls. “Despicable Me 3” attempts to mimic this by focusing on Gru’s relationship with his long lost brother, Dru, and Lucy’s struggles as a new mother to the girls. Not only does the movie use the same tired “plot twist” of a secret twin sibling, but it doesn’t give either relationship the attention they need to fully evolve. We see very small amounts of tension between Gru and Dru or Lucy and the girls, and then the relationships are perfect in the end with little time reserved for the characters to face the consequences of their actions. The most touching moment we see relationship-wise is when the minion Mel pines for Gru in prison, remembering how affectionate and selfless Gru was.
“Despicable Me 3” tries to pack too much in at once, introducing Gru’s long lost brother while Agnes searches for a unicorn and villain Balthazar Bratt uncomfortably shimmies around everywhere. The movie is distracted by the action and these side plots, hoping to find something that will appeal to everyone. Balthazar Bratt proves to be a moderately entertaining villain, with a unique backstory as an 80s child star who became a villain after his show was cancelled when he hit puberty. Yet his character becomes too much to handle because he demands so much attention, much like the rest of the subplots.
“Despicable Me 3” still has some funny moments. It relies on slapstick humor for the children and 80s references for the parents. There is no lack of comedy in every action scene, ranging from Dru’s failings as a villain to the dance fights between Balthazar Bratt and Gru. Margot, Edith and Agnes are cute and funny as they each deal with growing up, but even Agnes’s cuteness is subdued by too many of her high pitched screams.
One of the only redeeming qualities of the movie is the antics of the minions. Their dance routines choreographed to Pharell Williams songs are entertaining and refreshing against the chaotic plot of the movie. Likewise, the animation of these scenes is visually stunning. However, switching back and forth between the minions and the rest of the characters adds further confusion to the plot, highlighting the lack of focus on any one centralized theme.
“Despicable Me 3” has a lot to live up to, coming from such a successful franchise. It is difficult for the third — or fourth if you include “Minions” — movie to surpass its predecessors. The movie still entertains, but not with the charm or fluidity of “Despicable Me.” Instead, it struggles to find its way and overstimulates at times. It may disappoint adult fans of the franchise who yearn for the delightful characterization and love in the first movie, but it will still be an amusing watch for children.