Friday, June 30, 2017

Despicable Me 3 Review

It's been a busy month for animation as three of our huge animation studios have all released summer tent-poles. We started early in June with DreamWorks delivering "Captain Underpants," then Pixar punished us with "Cars 3" and now Illumination is back at it with the third installment of their marquee franchise, "Despicable Me 3." As concerning this franchise, I consider myself a huge fan. I own and love "Despicable Me." I think it's not only a hilarious and cute movie, but I feel it's also super emotional and deep when it comes to the themes. "Despicable Me 2" wasn't as deep, but it was a hilarious romp from start to finish. I even enjoyed the much hated "Minions" spin-off/prequel as 90 minutes of Minion gags had me cracking up. I totally get why people hate it. But I thought it was fun. Because of all this, I was looking forward to "Despicable Me 3." After a movie without Gru and the gang, I was excited to see them back with our beloved Minions. Underwhelming trailers didn't push me away because bad trailers for good movies happen all the time. But despite my excitement, I have to unfortunately announce that "Despicable Me 3 is a bad movie. I was in shock at what I was watching and was really angry and disappointed walking out of the theater.

The plot. This is where I describe the plot. Oh man, this is going to get complicated. The biggest question mark that I personally had from the trailers was that every time we released a new trailer, it didn't feel like the latter trailers were building off the previous trailers, it felt like each trailer was advertising a new movie. So what in the frack was this movie going to be about? Which of the completely different marketing pushes was this movie going to focus on the most? The answer? All of the above. For some reason they decided that they needed to set up so many different story arcs that for over half of the movie is spent going sidewards with the plot and when we've finally introduced every plot point, the movie was only capable of moving so far forward because it was forced to bounce around between all of these plot points. By the end of the movie, it felt like we had only progressed forward a few feet. The emotion and depth is what I like most about this franchise and there was potential with some of these story arcs, but there were simply too many of the story arcs which consequently made it so it was impossible for there to be any depth in this movie which also wiped away any emotion that they attempted to set up.

So let's attempt to tackle some of these. In this movie, Gru learns that he has a twin brother named Dru. Their parents were divorced when they were babies and each parent got to raise one child. We've already established that Gru's mother doesn't like Gru and now we establish that Dru's father doesn't like Dru. In fact, each parent seems to like the other one better. Here we had potential to dive deep into an emotional family drama where Gru and Dru figure out that they both have a sense of worth, which helps them bond as a family. Do they do this? Nope. Too much time with everything else. We just kinda introduce this idea, which is played off for laughs instead of actual emotion, and never dive into it. Ouch. Instead, Dru wants Gru to teach him how to be a villain, so Gru takes advantage of this opportunity to finally stop our villain, Balthazar Bratt, which I'll get to in a second. Steve Carell does voice both Gru and Dru, which I found very impressive because he is able give each character a distinct voice and personality to the point where I often forgot that Gru and Dru were voiced by the same person. That's impressive voice work. But unfortunately that effort was wasted because the movie chose not to dive as deep as they could've.

In "Despicable Me 2" we introduced the wonderful character of Lucy, voiced by Kristen Wiig, who ends up marrying Gru at the end of the movie. I really loved Gru and Lucy in that second movie. I thought they were perfect crime-fighting partners that fed off of each other quite well. But this time around I surprisingly have to say that Lucy annoyed the heck out of me. Her whole point in the movie is that she has to learn how to be a mother to the three girls and she has no idea how to do this. Again, there is potential with a story arc like this. In fact, that's the whole story arc of the first movie. Gru trying to figure out how to be a parent. So not only does this specific story arc feel like a complete rehash, but it's also a poor, second-rate copy of that original story arc that, again, they don't have time to dive into, so it feels extremely rushed and undeveloped. And it was also really annoying. Every time we went over to Lucy trying to be a mother, I wanted to scream at the movie to just stop. I developed this weird sense of anger towards Lucy because she was completely useless and a huge distraction in this movie. I also didn't feel like Kristen Wiig gave any effort this time around, so there was an imbalance because Steve Carell definitely put his heart and soul into this project.

Now should we talk about another major distraction in this film that breaks my heart to tear apart? The girls. I absolutely adore these girls and I would go as far as to say that they are the heart and soul of the first two movies. So now for me to say that they were annoying, pointless distractions actually hurts me. I mean, you have three of the best characters from any animated movie and you can't figure out what to do with them? Ouch. Margo has a tiny bit to do. At one point Lucy forces her to go be nice to this young boy, which blows up in both of their faces. Then we have a conflict between mother and daughter. Potential here? Yes. Developed? Absolutely not. We have two short scenes between Margo and this boy that served no purpose. And was again a rehash of something better, this time from the second movie. Then we get to Edith, who literally has nothing to do, so the movie sends her off with Agnes, who is on a hunt to find a real life unicorn. When I speak of useless and annoying, this takes the cake. Agnes and her unicorns was an adorable sub-plot of the first movie. This time around it felt like we were recycling old jokes and shoving them down our faces in an extended sequence that I really just wanted the movie to stop.

We're not done with introducing our story arcs and I'm not done complaining about them either. So how about just two more? It's time to finally talk about Balthazar Bratt, our villain. The introduction to our movie was a Balthazar Bratt exposition sequences, which annoyed me. Because they didn't feel like taking the time to develop him like a normal movie would, or like the first two movies did with their villains, they shove it all down our faces in the first few minutes. Then they leave him sitting there in the background for most of the movie while they develop these other sub-plots that I mostly didn't care about. This was disappointed to me because I actually loved his character and I think Trey Parker had an absolutely blast playing him. Yeah, sure, he was a cliche villain from a kids movie where they didn't seem to put much thought into why he was a villain and quickly threw together a cliche backstory. But man he was fun. He was a character stuck back in the 80's with his hairstyle, outfit, music and gadgets. It was a lot of fun to watch and Trey Parker added a lot of personality to him. Kudos to the movie for creating such a great character. But then I have to take all those kudos back because they could've done a lot more with this character.

I think you get the point by now. When I said I have two more, the final one is the Minions. You either love the Minions or you think they are the worst side characters on planet Earth. I'm in the former. I love the Minions. They are a lot of fun. In this movie, they get mad at Gru for not being a villain and most of them leave, giving us yet another story arc to follow. But this one was a lot of fun. Every time the group of rebellious Minions are on screen, I had a blast. In fact, I had so much fun with those scenes that there came a point in the movie where the only thing I wanted to see was the Minions. I wanted to follow their little escapade through prison and whatnot and nothing else, because everything else just because so stupid and/or underdeveloped. And I consider this a huge negative. I didn't care about Gru and Dru. I hated Lucy. I thought the girls were useless and unfortunate distractions. I thought Balthazar Bratt was underdeveloped and underutilized. I just wanted to see the Minions. And when I walk into a "Despicable Me" film excited to see Gru, Lucy and the girls and I end up not caring about all of that and I just want to see another "Minions" movie, that's an unforgivable sin this franchise has committed and thus I'm giving "Despicable Me 3" a 5/10.

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