Illumination Entertainment’s big money-making franchise has an interesting trajectory in terms of complexity with Despicable Me 3. The first movie only really has one main story with one prime group of characters. The second movie sports around 2-3 different stories and swings them around until they collide at the climax of the film. With Despicable Me 3, we’ve moved up to 5 different narratives crammed together in one movie and unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t have the advantage of any truly coherent meshing for those narrative beats. There’s a story about Gru discovering he has a twin brother and finding that villainy runs in the family, a smaller story about Margo and Lucy (Gru’s wife) trying to establish a connection as mother and child, a completely unrelated story about Agnes and Edith hunting a unicorn, another unrelated story about the Minions getting arrested, and finally the main plot (I think) about a villain named Balthazar Black trying to steal the world’s biggest diamond and how Gru is trying to stop him.
Overall, it’s a mess; Despicable Me 3 feels less like a film and more like 3 television episodes forcibly mashed together.
Afterward, I was left wondering who the audience for this film was. I don’t know if hardcore “Despicable Fans” are out there, but this is easily the least “Despicable” of the series, and that includes Minions. I can’t recommend it to the average audience because the editing and pacing are so erratic that it is often too hard to tell what’s happening. Children, it seems, are the ideal audience, but I’m almost willing to say that this film is too spontaneous and crazy even for most kids, and the actual amount of Minion-related footage is at an all time low and with the least amount of actual consequence this time around.
So who should watch this?
Well, I might show it to animators. All the character animation in this film is immaculate; Illumination continues to absolutely excel in both their comedic timing, control of motion and fantastic exaggeration. I still can’t recommend it enough to warrant a theater visit, but it’s worth noting that this is still a top level animation company that continues to show an amazing amount of promise, and last year’s Sing proved that they are definitely capable of making strong original IP’s. For now, though, we have Despicable Me 3, a beautifully wrapped box with nothing special inside.