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Movie review: Key elements missing from ‘Despicable Me 3’

This image released by Illumination and Universal Pictures shows character Gru, voiced by Steve Carell in a scene from “Despicable Me 3.”
This image released by Illumination and Universal Pictures shows character Gru, voiced by Steve Carell in a scene from “Despicable Me 3.” Illumination and Universal Pictures via AP

“Despicable Me 3” comes across less like the latest animated tale in the popular franchise about the once evil Gru (Steve Carell) and more like a made-for-television movie rushed into production to introduce a new TV series.

This third production in the series lacks the warmth and fun of the original 2010 film and comes nowhere close to having the offbeat antics of the second film that hit theaters in 2013. As a bonus, the sequel solidified the fame of the Minions.

The third film is more like a series of different vignettes more intent on introducing new characters than capitalizing on what made the first two movies work. Among the new players is Dru (also voiced by Carell), Gru’s long lost twin brother, who ends up being more of a detractor than a participant.

At least the new villain, Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) brings a larcenous energy to the production played out against an ’80s soundtrack that will keep parents from nodding off.

“Despicable Me 3” starts strong with Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) losing their jobs as crime fighters. They fall out of favor because they are unable to capture Bratt, a former child actor who has become the menacing person he played on TV when he was younger.

The jobless Gru agrees to meet with his twin, a wealthy pig farmer in Freedonia. After coming together, Dru’s efforts to convince Gru to return to his evil ways to keep the family tradition alive lead to a plot to steal the world’s largest diamond that Bratt has taken. The majority of the film looks at Gru’s battle between going back to his old life or embracing the new loving world he has created.

Writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio – the team behind the other “Despicable” movies and the Minions’ spinoff – fail to focus on the two elements that made the original movies work.

The first movie drew strength from how a trio of little girls could touch the heart of an evil genius. This emotional thread was balanced with the absurdity of the Minions. They quickly became movie icons with their gibberish speaking and pill-shaped bodies.

Those elements continued in “Despicable Me 2” with more focus on the family and a dramatic rise in Minions.

But in Part 3, there is very little interaction between Gru and the girls as his focus is the new annoying brother.

Then there’s the lack of Minions. When Gru initially balks at returning to being bad, the Minions walk out. After crashing a taping of a reality singing competition show, the Minions end up behind bars.

Every time the movie goes back to the Minions, the entertainment value goes up. The problem is the Minions are reduced to being bit players. Even their evil boss, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) has been written out with little fanfare.

Directors Eric Guillon and Kyle Balda keep the pace fast and the visuals bright but there are so many detours from what are the strengths of the movie, the overall production comes across like the bubble gum bubbles Bratt uses as weapons. It’s pretty and sweet but there’s little inside.

In the end, “Despicable Me 3” has twice the brothers but half the fun.

‘Despicable Me 3’

1/2

Cast: Voices of Steve Carroll, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Pierre Coffin.

Directors: Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda

Running time: 90 minutes.

Rating: PG (action scenes, rude humor).

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