"Despicable Me 3" lacks nearly any of that original vision, as it sloppily throws together storylines to make what can generously be called a cohesive narrative.
The lovable characters are back again with a new twist on Gru's (voice Steve Carell) employment. So Gru, Lucy and the girls head to Fredonia to meet this long lost family member.
While the brothers get to know each other's wild side, a more menacing cad named Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) is out to do more than simply swipe some candy.
The third film in the animated franchise arrives in cinemas on June 30 and Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig think the series' good-hearted nature means they could continue on forever, or at least until their voices gave out. Bratt's bratty, all right, but he's simply boring, and even a comical, cartoon adventure needs a terrific villain to truly succeed. He's still stuck in the 1980s, conjuring crimes that require hundreds of souped-up action figures, giant bubblegum or a dance-off to Madonna.
In the midst of this upheaval, Gru discovers the family history spun by his bespectacled mother Marlena (Julie Andrews) is a fabrication.
And there is no segment funnier than the one where they launch into a rousing opera chorus that, sung in signature Minion gibberish, is sublime in its silliness. They're a welcome extra, not the main event.
Convention says the villain steals the film, but in Despicable Me the henchmen dominate.
In Despicable Me 2, Gru was recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL), fell in love... and, much to the delight of the children, married super-spy - Lucy.
Children's movies often try to hard to slide jokes in for adults - and the Despicable Me franchise has been guilty of that in the past - but this movie flips that script, building characters that are created to appeal to adults, like Lucy and Bratt. "It's just easy and fun and he is just the nicest person".
We've likely not seen the last of Gru and the Minions, considering the boon these movies have been for the series' production house, Illumination. I'm not sure how I feel about Dru. Sure, we're talking about a cartoon here, but the stakes just never feel that high.
If you aren't surrounded by hyperactive, chair-kicking brats, it is lots of fun. "Isn't it amusing that when you listen to the minions you don't really understand the words but you understand what they are saying", says Carell.
In their own daffy, hyper-kinetic way, it's the Despicable Me films that now represent animation's most intelligently put together and resonant storytelling.
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