When supervillain-turned-secret agent (and family man) Gru (Steve Carell) discovers he has a long- lost twin brother (Dru — also Carell), he and his family head to the European country of Freedonia to meet this estranged sibling. But Dru soon reveals he has ulterior motives for making himself known.
Let’s begin with a quiz, one question only: what’s Universal’s highest-grossing film ever at the US box office? If you said one of the three previous Minions-starring movies then, good guess (this is a Despicable Me 3 review, after all), but incorrect. The answer is, of course, Jurassic World. But (and there is a point to this) before Colin Trevorrow’s Indominus Rex-sized dino smash took top position, the answer would have been Despicable Me 2. From reasonable, but hardly world-altering success with the original film, a combination of Minions-mania and Pharrell Williams hits transformed a cartoon also-ran into a cultural phenomenon. And now, after a lacklustre prequel that put its small, yellow comedy creations front and centre, we’re back with the Gru family.
The backstory is this: former supervillain Felonius Gru (Steve Carell) has given up his first career — crime (and apparently his second, too — selling jellies and jams). Now he’s a fully fledged agent for the Anti-Villain League. But that all changes within the film’s first few minutes. Despite foiling a plot to steal the world’s most expensive diamond, he’s fired by his new boss for letting the culprit, ’80s obsessive Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), get away. Not that he has much time to dwell on that. The next day he’s contacted by his secret twin, Dru (also Carell), and is soon in the European country of Freedonia with his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), three adopted daughters and his two remaining Minions after the rest ditched him to find new employment with someone more villainous.
Of the two major new characters, Dru and Bratt, the latter is easily the most successful. A former child star, he’s stuck in his glory years — the ’80s. He wears shoulder pads, challenges adversaries to dance fights and his best gun is a reconfigured keytar. As he’s introduced, carrying out a heist to the beat of Michael Jackson’s Bad, it’s clear he’s designed to cater for both demographics in the audience — a zany villain for the kids, a buzz of nostalgia for the most Minion-fatigued of parents. Are the on-screen antics leaving you cold? Don’t worry — here’s Take On Me to pass the time.
But it shouldn’t come to that. It’s messier than previous Despicable Me films, with subplots set up that either don’t pay off, or fail to generate much interest (Wiig especially should have serious words before she signs on for a fourth). But even if the energy sags at points, it’s never far from a Dru-led action sequence or the Minions staging an elaborate prison escape to bring it back up. Jurassic World should watch its back.
The third Despicable Me film chronologically is also the third-best in terms of quality. But it has just enough energy and flashes of inspiration to suggest it’s a franchise that could run and run.