Grade:  B
2017, 90 min., Color
Animation
Universal
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Aspect ratio:  2.40:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features:  B-/C+
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Although Readers at IMDB.com and the critics at Rotten Tomatoes thought otherwise, Despicable Me 3 is just as entertaining as the first sequel to Despicable Me (2010)—the animated feature from Universal that introduced us to the carrot-nosed Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a villain who was softened up by three orphaned girls.

By the third installment, Gru has gone straight and has been working for the Anti-Villain League with his partner/wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig). Because they failed to capture or eliminate Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a maligned child actor who, as a resentful adult, is driven to become the world’s biggest villain, Gru and Lucy find themselves kicked out of the League. But of course that doesn’t stop them from tangling with Bratt (aka Bad Boy Bod) again and somehow managing to save the day. That’s no spoiler: it’s what superheroes and crimefighters do.

How much you enjoy Despicable Me 3 may depend on how much you like Gru’s “minions”—those capsule-shaped little yellow guys in blue overalls that speak in their own gibberish language. This outing the minions aren’t integral to the plot and only seem deployed in several overly cute (and overly long) sequences designed to satisfy those who do love the little guys, and, of course, to keep those Minion toys and product tie-ins flying off the shelves. They mattered much more in the first two films. Here, they’re as gratuitous as nudity in a teen slasher movie. Also marginalized this film are the three orphaned girls that Gru adopted in the first film, so if you thought Mr. Despicable’s interaction with those girls a strength, you’ll be disappointed to find them underused in Despicable Me 3.

Dominating this entry are Gru’s interactions with the villain and a twin brother he never knew he had until recently. Carell also gives voice to Dru, the seemingly perfect (and fabulously wealthy and successful) twin from whom he was separated at birth. Reminiscent of the 1988 comedy Twins, in which the genetically perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, the twin made from DNA leftovers, discover each other, Despicable Me 3 features one twin who is predominantly evil and the other predominantly good. The complication, we learn, is that the successful twin was as much of a disappointment to the villainous-at-heart father who raised him as Gru was to his goody-goody mother. How the brothers learn to cope with who they are and how they were raised, and how they learn to deal with their “Other” gets the lion’s share of narrative attention. And frankly, the twin brother angle probably rescues the third installment from a familiarity that can make sequels seem tedious.

Are there Disney-style wholesome messages implanted here? Sure, if you consider that good triumphs over evil. Despite a large dose of sibling rivalry (that children with siblings can certainly identify with), there are also moments of true caring and brotherly love that shine through. If the voice of Gru’s mom sounds familiar, none other than Julie Andrews is behind the microphone, while Miranda Cosgrove and Dana Gaier return as the voices of adoptees Margo and Edith and Nev Scharrel replaces Elsie Fisher as Agnes.

The animation is as accomplished as anything we’ve seen from Universal, with artists and animators strutting their stuff in a string of grand-scale action scenes that are comparable to what we’re seeing these days in live-action superhero films. Despite a PG rating for “action and rude humor,” nothing here is terribly offensive (How upset can you get when a villain’s weapon of choice is bubble gum?) and there’s less palpable tension in scenes with characters in danger than a Disney superhero film like The Incredibles. It’s a pretty family-friendly package, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments—many of them involving minor characters and sight gags—and a lot of color and activity on the screen, all of it looking wonderful in 1080p HD.

While at first glance there appears to be a bunch of bonus features, none of them runs longer than seven minutes. The best is probably “The Secret Life of Kyle,” a cartoon short featuring Gru’s pet dog. Yes, even the dogs are getting into the act. This franchise is still going strong, with Minions 2 slated for 2020 release and Despicable Me 4 projected for 2024.

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