Despicable Me 3 offers enough in the way of zany, irreverent entertainment (with a dose of heart) to please steadfast fans of the franchise.
Supervillain-turned stepfather and husband Gru (Steve Carrell) now works alongside his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) for the Anti-Villain League (AVL) and has attempted, but failed, multiple times to capture one Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker): a former 1980s TV series child star-turned criminal mastermind. After foiling Bratt's attempt to steal the world's most expensive diamond but failing to bring him in yet again, Gru and Lucy are fired by the new head of the AVL, Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate). However, Gru is only able to wallow in his own pity for so long before he learns that he has a twin brother - a fellow named Dru, who then flies Gru, Lucy and their three adopted daughters out to his lavish mansion in Fredonia.
Upon meeting Dru, Gru is shocked to discover that his sibling is his complete opposite, from his touchy-feely behavior to his flowing locks of golden hair. Moreover, Gru soon discovers the truth behind why Dru wanted to meet him: so that Gru will instruct his wayward twin brother in the art of being a proper supervillain, so that Dru might carry on the "secret family business." It turns out Dru is just the beginning of Gru's new problems too, when it comes to light that Bratt is still after the aforementioned diamond, as part of a much-more elaborate scheme for revenge.
The third installment in Illumination Entertainment's animated Despicable Me movie franchise (not counting the Minions spinoff), Despicable Me 3 was overseen by Minions helmsman Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin - co-director of the previous two Despicable Me films and Minions, as well as the voice actor behind the Minions themselves. Based on the shared credentials of its directors alone, it may go without saying that Despicable Me 3 is neither a mold-breaker nor a movie that brings much in the way of new ideas to the larger franchise. However, that is not to say the Despicable Me franchise is running solely on fumes at this stage in its existence, either. Despicable Me 3 offers enough in the way of zany, irreverent entertainment (with a dose of heart) to please steadfast fans of the franchise.
Despicable Me 3, like its predecessors, is dedicated first and foremost to serving up the expected parade of nonstop sight gags, over the top action scenarios and Minions-style pantomiming. At the same time, however, the movie's directors and many, many animators typically manage to avoid directly rehashing both the best jokes and cartoonish action situations featured in previous chapters in the Despicable Me movie series. Some of the animated set pieces and settings in Despicable Me 3 prove more visually-striking than others (with Balthazar Bratt's evil lair being the most memorable), while some of the comedy sequences - including, the now "requisite" Minions musical numbers - similarly manage to leave a stronger impression than others. On the whole though, the creatives behind Despicable Me 3 have a firm grasp on the tone of this franchise, so there's nothing that feels out of place here - be it the comically-stylized design of the characters or the many different variations of kid-friendly humor (with the wry nod to adults sprinkled here and there) on display.
In terms of plot structure, Despicable Me 3 feels less like a glorified collection of skits (a la Minions) and more like a complete narrative in the vein of the first two Despicable Me movies. Despicable Me 1&2 writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul also wrote the screenplay for the third installment, in the process ensuring that the movie has two solid emotional through-lines - namely, Gru's efforts to bond with his brother and Lucy's attempts to become a proper parent - to tie together the various escapades that ensue, along the way to the ending. Daurio and Paul also do a better job here of not allowing the Minions to dominate the spotlight at the expense of other plot threads (a la Despicable Me 2), instead giving the little yellow creatures a side-plot of their own that still gets enough screen time to get die-hard Minions fans their fix of Minion-related comedy. This further allows Despicable Me 3 to zip along and maintain a nice, brisk pace without ever dragging too much or lingering on any one story development for too long (be it silly or more substantial in nature).
Like in the previous Despicable Me movies, Gru (Steve Carrell) finds himself struggling with family problems in Despicable Me 3 - this time, his relationship with his twin brother and (seemingly) polar opposite, Dru. While Dru lacks the depth of his ex-supervillain sibling, the character nonetheless succeeds in bringing out some new elements (and vulnerabilities) in Gru; allowing the latter to continue developing, rather than remaining static in his third outing on the big screen. Similarly, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is afforded her own simple, yet fully-realized character arc that allows her to continue evolving while remaining as eccentric and off-beat as she was during Despicable Me 2. That said, the story thread concerning Lucy's efforts to bond with her new step-daughters here admittedly isn't given as much attention as Gru's own journey to becoming a parent in the first Despicable Me - as it has to compete with other sub-plots for screentime (including, a whole story thread that sees the Minions wind up in prison).
South Park co-creator (as well as frequent voice actor) Trey Parker likewise makes for a fittingly over the top villain as Balthazar Bratt in Despicable Me 3. There's not much more to the character other than 1980s pop cultural references, though there are satirical undertones to Balthazar (and his vendetta against Hollywood) that give him a bit more substance than some of the antagonists from Despicable Me movies past. Balthazar isn't so much as strong foil for Gru as he is comical obstacle, but Parker's years of experience voicing megalomaniacal and otherwise ridiculous animated characters serves him well here - allowing him to imbue Mr. Bratt with more personality than the super-villain might have possessed otherwise. As for the other newcomers here: Jenny Slate as Valerie Da Vinci is the most noteworthy, but (sadly) the fan-favorite comedian gets little more than a brief vocal cameo here (setting her up for a larger role in a future Despicable Me/Minions installment, perhaps).
All things considered, Despicable Me 3 falls in the same boat as this month's fellow animated threequel Cars 3 - in that it should please the franchise's loyal fans, but doesn't incorporate enough fresh ingredients into the series' formula to either bring in newcomers and/or win back too many of the moviegoers who have already gotten their fill of Gru, the Minions, and their friends' shenanigans. At the same time, also like Cars 3, Despicable Me 3 is a step up from some of the weaker installments in the franchise that have come before it, with respect to storytelling quality and entertainment value. With Minions 2 already in the works and Despicable Me 4 possibly to follow, one hopes this franchise continues that (slightly) upward trend in the future, too.