In what has been a very solid franchise to date, Despicable Me 3 delivers a very disappointing product that is perhaps one of the most severe cases of diminishing returns in recent years.
The major problem here is simply trying to do too much. Almost every pre-established character gets their own little storyline and the whole thing descends into a series of subplots with no overarching theme to hold them together.
The supposed main storyline is that of Gru and Lucy losing their jobs and Gru's obsession with capturing the eighties villain Balthazar Bratt in order to win back their reputation and employment. Or is it the thing about Gru discovering he has a long lost twin brother and the emotional journey there? Before you work that out, here's Lucy trying to learn how to be a mother and one of the girls getting a unicorn and another one getting engaged or something. Oh, and Bratt has his own emotional backstory, don't forget about that.
Of course, the minions also have their own subplot, that predictably is more engaging than anything with the family. Bring back the minions!
Nothing is given any time to develop because the filmmakers are trying to cram as much as possible into one film, and often these are elements that give us no benefit whatsoever. For example, Gru's boss is replaced with a new sterner employer who immediately fires him. And then we never see anything about them again. So what was the point in that? Why not just have the guy fired by the original boss? It's not like they were really friendly or anything anyway. Other characters briefly step in as if they may be important only to quickly disappear with no kind of resolution. It feels like when someone does a comic book adaptation and they cram in a load of extraneous characters to keep the fans happy.
The annoying thing is that there are strong enough plots here to maintain a film. Gru meets up with his long lost twin and after some emotional toing and froing they eventually team up together to defeat Gru's nemesis that we set up in the opening scene. Boom. Done. Forget the rest of the family because nobody gives the slightest toss. Throw in some minions for extra comedy. Bananas.
Of course, that would also mean making the brother story actually comedic and emotionally resonant, neither of which is managed in this abridged version. Carell barely even bothers doing a different voice for Dru even though the two have been brought up completely separately so there is no reason they would have similar accents. He could have gone anywhere he wanted with that. Or make the character female and do a badly high pitched version. If it's good enough for Adam Sandler... Just do something to make this character interesting in any way.
Then there are the little details that make up a large part of any animated comedy. The background stuff. Such as, when the minions escape from prison they have to steal all the toilets in the prison to construct a plane. Why? Because... toilets are funny? Such pointless elements that add nothing and take away precious time and space that could be used to entertain an audience.
At least the main villain (who in an alternate universe could easily be a new character direction for South Park's Randy Marsh) is a nice concept and well portrayed. He has lots of flashing colours and noise for the kids with plenty of nostalgia references for the parents. We get enough backstory to get the character without having to humanise him too much. This is just about the only good bit of the film.
After the solid work of the previous films in this franchise this feels like a real wasted opportunity. Even the music doesn't hold up, re-using previous Pharrell Williams from the original rather than constructing new and more appropriate tracks. As with many franchises, it seems like the filmmakers themselves have got tired of working on the same film for the better part of a decade and have just stopped putting in any effort.
Lazy and disappointing; 4/10