Despicable Me 3 (2017)

(On Cable TV, April 2018) It’s never a good sign when you look askance at the screen and wonder why a specific creative choice was made. I’m not here to bury Despicable Me 3, which is more or less in-line with the series (including the Minions spinoff) so far: it’s a serviceable new entry in the franchise, not quite as interesting because it needs to move forward. If the three little girls were the heart of the first film, and the character of Lucy was the comic highlight of the second film, this film feels forced to expand the family a little bit and get an eighties-themed villain. And that’s when the askance glance at creative choices comes in: Gru’s new brother isn’t particularly funny, and neither is former child-star villain Balthazar Bratt. In fact, they’re so perfunctory that it’s easy to feel disappointed when it becomes clear that, yes, this is the direction in which the entire third film will go. The girls are relegated to the background, Lucy doesn’t get much to do and we’re stuck with a pair of new characters that are clearly less interesting than the filmmakers think. Oh, there’s still enough fast-paced comedic action to keep things interesting (although the amount of Minion stuff is appropriately kept in check) but the film suggests that the series is on a path of steadily diminishing returns, creatively speaking. Of course, finances trump creativity in this blockbuster age of film, so you can reliably expect Despicable Me 4 in three to four years. So it goes. No amount of askew glaring will change that.

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