A bland entry in a drawn out franchise. Agnes and her love of unicorns is once again the best part. Save your money on this one.
The Good: It’s…cute?
It’s fine. Just fine. Not great. Not good. Not bad. Not laughably terrible. Just mediocre.
Agnes, who is yet again the soul of the film, is the also the best part. Unfortunately her story doesn’t get the time it deserves. I spent most of the film wishing Gru’s scene would end so that Agnes could get her time to shine.
The Bad: It’s not bad. Just unimaginative and bland.
The original Despicable Me was funny and original. Gru is basically a parody of a past-his-prime Bond villain. He’s comedically villainous, to the point that the “evil” is so ridiculous it can’t be taken too seriously. The numerous, interchangeable, faceless minions so present in any film like this (orcs, stormtroopers, Bond villain goons) were literally called Minions. They also had names and individual personalities, which Gru could see, though the audience could not. And best of all, the twist on Gru’s life: he has to adopt three girls, one of whom is unicorn obsessed, to complete his schemes.
This excellent formula proved successful. Way too successful. The Universal marketing machine went to work, and soon thereafter you couldn’t get away from the legion horde of yellow commercialism golden geese that are the Minions.
The third film, like the second, doesn’t do much to separate from that sad reality. Here’s a contrived plot development about Gru not being a good enough good-guy spy because…they needed a plot. Here’s Gru’s twin brother because they’ve pretty much exhausted what can be done with developing the main character. Here’s the Minions in prison outfits because merchandise.
The jokes are expected. The animation pushes no boundaries. The villain is just referential enough to give an adult a chuckle, while ridiculous and infantile enough to appeal to whatever kids Illumination is trying to get. But those kids deserve better.
The Ugly: Come on Illumination/Universal, let’s pick it up a bit here.
Listen, not every animated film has to be like Pixar. But right now we are living through a golden age of animated film. There are more production companies than ever before, putting out better films all the time. Captain Underpants, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Red Turtle. These are all non-Pixar/Disney animated films that are truly fantastic. Because they’re original, they push the boundary of animation, and they have don’t just have plot; they have story.
Illumination has really fallen behind. Where the blame should be laid is not clear, whether on them or their parent Universal. In either case, here’s their current stock:
Despicable Me + Minions: Good once, mediocre merchandising for the rest.
Hop: So bad. So so bad.
Secret Life of Pets: It’s Toy Story but with dogs. Same exact story.
Sing: It was fine. Just fine.
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: It was meh. There was a story there, but it wasn’t executed well.
Illumination can keep churning out easily marketable films that lack story. The merchandising and licensing will undoubtedly keep them afloat. But to continue playing the game in today’s world of animation? They need to step it up.
“Gru (voice of Steve Carell) battles Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a 1980s child star-turned-supervillain, in this animated sequel. Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Wiig, Steve Coogan, and Dana Gaier also return to reprise their characters from prior installments.” ~ Jack Rodgers, Rovi