DESPICABLE ME 3 | ©2017 Universal Pictures

DESPICABLE ME 3 | ©2017 Universal Pictures

Rating: PG
Stars (voices): Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker
Writers: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Directors: Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin, co-director, Eric Guillon
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: June 30, 2017

 In DESPICABLE ME 3, there’s a moment when Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) mutters, “I miss the Minions.” Well, yes. So likely will most of the audience. Although the little yellow hench-beings are heavily promoted in the DESPICABLE ME 3 trailers, they are largely missing from this third entry in the animated series.

In the original 2010 DESPICABLE ME, Gru was a professional super-villain, supported by his mad scientist buddy and a horde of mischievous, banana-obsessed Minions. Three little orphan girls warmed Gru’s heart, to the point where he stopped being a baddie and thwarted another despicable sort. In 2013’s DESPICABLE ME 2, Gru met and married heroic super-spy Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig). Again, the adventures were aided (and sometimes derailed) by the Minions.

In DESPICABLE ME 3, written by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (who also penned the first two films), Gru and Lucy are both agents of a heroic worldwide organization that takes down villains. Unfortunately, Gru’s latest failure to capture Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker, of SOUTH PARK fame), results in him and Lucy being fired. Balthazar, an Eighties child star turned evil mastermind, dreams of destroying Hollywood, the town that turned its back on him. Meanwhile, Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (also voiced by Carell) wants Gru to teach him the ways of villainy.

The Minions walk out on Gru early in the film, except for two who stick with him but don’t do much. DESPICABLE ME 3 occasionally cuts back to the Minions. However, the movie plays very much as if the filmmakers decided that they had certain set pieces they wanted to include, couldn’t figure out how to integrate them and decided not to try.

This means that we’ve got a lot of loose plotlines waving around. The Gru/Dru sibling stuff is mildly amusing, but not funny enough, visually or conceptually, to fill the screen time it gets. Lucy’s desire to be a good mother seems valid enough, but the jokes and punchlines connected to this are extremely mild. Little Agnes (voiced by Nev Scharrel) is still fascinated by unicorns, but this also goes on for awhile with a minor payoff.

The real mystery here is why Bratt was conceived the way he is. YouTube notwithstanding, little kids may not get all the Eighties references, and adults who get the joke may feel that it wears out pretty quickly.

Even the Minions don’t have as much impact as usual, though their musical numbers are worth watching. Some good ideas are formed around them – the notion of the Minions as a feared prison gang is pretty funny – but these play out so fleetingly that they don’t pay off. Yes, brevity is the soul of wit, but when you have a concept with potential mileage involving your most popular characters, you might want to explore it a little more.

The best thing here, at least for Angelenos, may be the depiction of Hollywood Boulevard, which takes artistic license, but is nevertheless startling in how accurate it feels. It’s like a dream version of the street and its buildings, with some details changed, but wholly recognizable.

DESPICABLE ME 3 wants to have something for everyone, but it spreads everything too thin, stretching some things too long and giving others short shrift. The results aren’t despicable, but they are mostly bland at best.

Related: Exclusive Photos from the DESPICABLE ME 3 World Premiere

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