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Family Movie Review: Despicable Me 3 (PG)

Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal(3.5 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 90 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. Much of the content here will be familiar to anyone who has seen the “Despicable Me” or “Minions” films: there are some action sequences, including car chases with cops and altercations with villains, that include violence in the form of guns, fistfights, robots who shoot lasers, and girls who are kidnapped. The Minions also casually hurt each other with pinches, slaps, and punches. Also a young boy attempting to kiss a young girl against her will; some bathroom humor; some inappropriate language, like “boobs”; some naked Minion butts; some implied male nudity; and a scene where two children accidentally wander into a bar full of drunk adults.

Gru, Lucy, and the girls are back for ‘Despicable Me 3,’ which uses ‘80s nostalgia for fun and musical action sequences. But the movie feels slighter than its predecessors, amusing but not particularly impactful.

By Roxana Hadadi

DespicableMe3 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewWhether Gru is a villain or a hero is a narrative question that the “Despicable Me” franchise keeps returning to, and “Despicable Me 3” poses it again: If villainy is in Gru’s blood, can he turn his back on who he is? It’s not new ground for these movies, and because of that “Despicable Me 3”—while delivering some good ‘80s nostalgia and fun action sequences—feels curiously slight.

The movie opens sometime after the events of “Despicable Me 2,” in which one-time supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell, of “Freeheld”) reformed his ways, fell in love with Anti-Villain League agent Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig, of “Ghostbusters”), and continued to be a positive father figure for his three adopted daughters, maniacally cute Agnes (voiced by Nev Scharrel), mischief-maker Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), and mature Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove). When “Despicable Me 3” opens, Gru and Lucy are not only still happily married, but also partnered agents for the AVL, chasing down the latest bad guy with an evil plan: ‘80s child star Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trek Parker).

Bratt has a massive chip on his shoulder—his TV show was cancelled when he hit puberty, Hollywood wasn’t kind to him, and in the years since his show, this now-adult man is convinced that the character’s villainous personality is actually his own—and he wants to fill it with the world’s largest diamond. When he evades Gru and Lucy and steals the gem, they’re immediately fired by the AVL, leading them and the girls to wonder what comes next.

The answer to that comes in the form of Dru (also voiced by Carell), Gru’s long-lost twin brother who is everything he’s not. Gru dresses in all-black, Dru dresses in all-white. Gru is bald, Dru has lustrous long blond hair. And while Gru has reconsidered his life of crime, Dru is trying to enter it—telling Gru that villainy is their family business and their father’s legacy. Will the two of them team up and return to Gru’s old ways? And with Bratt still out there, with a personal grudge against Gru, are the brothers, Lucy, and the girls even safe?

“Despicable Me 3” offers a change of scenery with Dru’s country, Freedonia, in which pigs roam freely and forests allegedly house unicorns, and delivers some fun action sequences with Bratt, who blasts songs from ‘80s stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and a-ha into his Walkman while he incorporates dance movies like the moonwalk into his heists. Bratt will be endlessly amusing for older viewers who recognize the ‘80s elements of his characterization, and his scenes—with their flashbacks to old episodes of his show and a major weapon that almost looks like Claymation—also offer different kinds of animation styles that diversify the film.

Per usual, the movie has a few slight subplots alongside the main story, but they’re honestly mostly forgettable. Lucy and Margo have a bonding moment in which the former shields the latter from an overzealous young boy with a crush on her, but there’s also a kind of cultural ignorance in that scene that kind of implies that it’s OK for Americans to visit other countries, disrespect their traditions, and then insult their people. More enjoyable are the antics of the Minions, who somehow end up auditioning for a singing TV show and then cultivating a finger-snapping, “West Side Story”-like gang vibe in prison. But their storyline is so separate from the main action that it feels more like an idea for a “Minions” sequel than a cohesive element of this film.

In the scheme of summer sequels, although “Despicable Me 3” is not particularly impactful, it’s ultimately fine. There are some good sight gags and a great new villain in Bratt, and Carell’s vocal performance is consistently top-notch. This isn’t the surprising brilliance of “Cars 3,” but it will do.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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