Review: ‘Despicable Me 4’ Delightful Return for Gru and the Gang

Review: ‘Despicable Me 4’ Delightful Return for Gru and the Gang

Stars: 4 out of 5

Cons: Sub-plots feel tacked on

Sub-plots distract from story

A Bit Busy, but Mostly Fun

I’ve been surprised at just how charming the Despicable Me movies have turned out to be, so I was looking forward to catching up with Gru and the rest of the gang in Despicable Me 3. This movie suffered from a few too many storylines, but overall, it was still enjoyable.

The movie opens as Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his new wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are on their latest mission for the Anti-Villain League. Their target is Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former childhood actor who turned to villainy when his show was canceled. However, things quickly go wrong, and Gru and Lucy both wind up fired.

While Gru is still processing this bit of news, he gets the surprise of his life – he has a twin brother named Dru (also Steve Carell). Dru wants to start on a life of crime, and he hopes to team up with Gru to do it. Will Gru return to villainy?

This story alone would be enough to carry the movie, and it is a great plot. I figured out where they were going with it fairly early on, but I didn’t care because watching them get there was a lot of fun.

But the problem is they decided to water things down with several sub-plots. Admittedly, these sub-plots allow some of the other characters to shine, but they feel like they are there more as padding than as part of the film. True, two of the sub-plots, Lucy’s attempts to be a good mother to the three girls and the majority of the minions striking out on their own, both factor into the main plot’s climax, so it’s only Agnes’ hunt for a real live unicorn that really doesn’t come into play at the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the characters, but I feel like they could have been worked into the main plot better.

Now this isn’t to say that the movie isn’t entertaining. I laughed quite a bit and smiled even more. The film entertains, which is the entire point, right?

Like with the other movies in the franchise, the animation is very stylized. It isn’t going for the hyper-realistic look of other animated movies, but it certainly works for these movies.

And the voice cast continues to be wonderful. They bring their characters to life in such a way that you get caught up in the story.

My issues with the plot aside, Despicable Me 3 will entertain fans of the franchise. If you are one of them, you’ll definitely want to check this movie out.

In the time since we last saw Gru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the minions, they have grown into a family. Gru plays a loving father to his three adopted daughters, going out of his way to cater to them as individuals. His life of crime is behind him, and he and Dr. Nefario have turned his secret lair into a jams and jellies factory. At Agnes’s birthday party, Gru dresses up as a fairy princess to fill in for the one he’d hired for the party, while the moms of the other kids at the party keep trying to set him up with their single friends.

However, when an arctic research station is stolen, along with a chemical that can turn the most gentle bunny into a vicious, purple killer (between Despicable Me 2 and The Lone Ranger, vicious bunnies are having a moment), the Anti-Villain League decides to turn to Gru for help. After initially turning them down, he reconsiders and joins forces with them, in part to partly fulfill the longing for his old way of life. He’s assigned an AVL agent, Lucy Wilde, and the two of them set up shop (literally) in a mall where they suspect the chemical has been taken. And all the while, Gru’s minions seem to be disappearing.

There’s really not much to the main story to Despicable Me 2, especially when compared to the plot of the first film. It’s pretty clear early on who the villain is, though the film tries a bit of misdirection, and the villain’s evil scheme isn’t particularly interesting. But where the main story might be less than perfect, everything surrounding it is still as enjoyable as ever. Steve Carell returns to voice the oddly-accented Gru, and he does a great job of showing the different aspects of Gru’s personality: loving and overprotective father, exasperated boss (to the minions), single parent, and that of a man struggling to figure out where he fits in the world. Kristen Wiig also returns, though voicing a different character this time, and her overly enthusiastic Agent Wilde is a fun addition, though she’s not given much to do.

Gru’s girls are still delightful. Agnes is still obsessed with all things cute and fluffy, Edith is the black sheep with violent tendencies, and Margo, as the oldest, is still the leader of the pack. Margo gets her own subplot as she gets her first boyfriend, who may or may not be the son of an evil villain, but who Gru hates regardless. I’m sure there are many parents who wish they could just “Freeze Ray!” their child’s first crush. The girls are adorable and are really the heart of this franchise, in a way that feels surprisingly genuine in such a ridiculous film. They’re sweet without ever being sappy (and this is from a person who loves sap). The moments as simple as tiny Agnes bringing an umbrella out to Gru, who is sulking and sitting in the rain, and talking to him in her honest way are what give this movie a leg up on the others out there with the same target audience.

And then there are the minions. These little, yellow, be-goggled, pill-shaped creations are the most creative and entertaining part of this franchise. It’s no wonder they’re getting their own prequel film next year. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought, “You know, I could just watch these little guys running around being themselves for 90 minutes.” I guess next year we’ll see if I was right. The minions provide the bulk of the film’s humor, and it’s anarchic spirit. Whether they’re daydreaming about romance, playing dangerous games of Putt-Putt, suffering what would otherwise be tragic workplace accidents, or simply laughing at funny words or slapstick, the minions are always entertaining to watch. (Everything also becomes at least twice as funny if your theater is full of kids. I challenge you not to laugh when they start repeating the “Bee-doe, bee-doe, bee-doe” firefighter sound from the trailer.) I actually think the minions are one of the great animated creations of recent years. They’re purely for comedy, and they don’t rely in any way on voice actors, dialogue, or context. They’re funny in a way that works regardless of your age.

As for Despicable Me 2, it feels sort of like the later Shrek sequels. After connecting to the characters and the world in the first film, it’s fun to simply return to that world and see how Gru and the gang are getting along. I just wish that this sequel had followed Shrek 2’s example of how to take what we loved about the first film and give us more. Despicable Me 2 feels a bit less. All of the parts are still there, along with some enjoyable new characters, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. It’s still a fun and funny movie, and I have no problem with more films in the years ahead, I just hope the next film is more memorable. But until then, bring on Minions.

Source: Various

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top