It seems third time’s the opposite of lucky with animated franchises. Like ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Ice Age’ before it, the ‘Despicable’ series has made the short trip from lovably madcap to tedious in three films (not counting the actually-kind-of-terrific ‘Minions’ spinoff). This time around, supervillain-turned-superagent Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his feisty, puts-the-kick-in-sidekick wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are on the tail of ’80s-obsessed diamond thief Balthazar Bratt (‘South Park’ co-creator Trey Parker, adding precisely nothing to the proceedings). Gru also discovers that he has a brother, Dru (Carell again), who lives in a giant gold-trimmed pig farm (it’s that kind of movie).
‘Despicable Me 3’ suffers both from a lack of new ideas – there are no memorable gags or action set-pieces, just a lot of flying about and yelling – and from an assumption that the audience is already invested enough to care about what happens. The lack of consistency in the characters is striking: Dru somehow shifts from successful golden child to hapless hanger-on with zero explanation given. And there’s a strong whiff of xenophobia in the East European-inflected principality of Freedonia (yes, we get the Mark Brothers reference), which seems to be populated entirely with clog-wearing farmers and hairy-nosed gypsy women.
Once again, it’s up to the squeaky, banana-obsessed minions to save the day: their subplot, which sees them confined to prison before escaping in a rickety airship, is actually funny. The rest of the movie is just drab, a lumbering parade of sub-‘Incredibles’ superhero shenanigans and hokey be-yourself sentiment.