Despicable Me 3 Voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.
Thanks mainly to the runaway popularity of the little yellow creatures known as minions, the animated Despicable Me movies have become a self-perpetuating enterprise, with future sequels and spinoffs all but inevitable. Thus there’s a sense of tired obligation to Despicable Me 3, which runs barely 90 minutes including its lengthy closing credits, and throws together a handful of haphazard storylines that only faintly evoke the themes of loneliness and makeshift family that were once at the heart of the story. Thanks to the ongoing addition of characters, reformed supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) now has three adopted daughters plus a wife, villain-hunting secret agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), along with his army of minions. The cast has gotten so cluttered that Gru’s onetime assistant Dr. Nefario is literally frozen for the entire movie, just to get him out of the way.
Despicable 3 further adds to the cast with the introduction of Gru’s twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell), although the discovery of his long-lost sibling doesn’t really affect Gru’s life all that much. Nothing in the plot carries much of an impact, despite the series of apparently momentous developments, starting with Gru and Lucy getting fired from the Anti-Villain League by their new boss (Jenny Slate), who shows up in a single scene. They go from losing their jobs to reuniting with Dru to chasing down new villain Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker) at a breakneck pace, while the minions (who’ve abandoned Gru after his refusal to return to villainy) are basically off starring in their own unrelated movie.
Bratt is an underwhelming adversary, Dru’s primary character trait is that Carell voices him with a slightly different indeterminate foreign accent, and Lucy and Gru’s daughters get barely sketched-out emotional journeys (Lucy wants to strengthen her position as a mother figure; the girls, uh, look for a unicorn). For little kids who just want to see some pratfalls, some colorful chase sequences and some goofy minion antics, Despicable 3 gets the job done, and at least it ends quickly so that parents don’t have to endure the slapdash cacophony for too long. But even the ending is a lazy copout, barely resolving anything before setting the course for Despicable Me 4. The inevitability is exhausting, for the characters, for the audience and even, it seems, for the creators.