Minions et al play their part in milking a cash cow dry
Film review: Despicable Me 3 (U), 5/10
The lacklustre Minions spin-off, released in 2015, issued a clear warning shot about the consequences of milking a cash cow dry.
Evidently, no one was listening because the Illumination Entertainment box office bovine is desiccated by the conclusion of this third instalment of the computer-animated series.
Co-directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon, Despicable Me three is a pick 'n' mix of half-formed ideas, crudely stitched together with flimsy subplots that lack any forward momentum.
The third chapter relies heavily on the googly-eyed yellow sidekicks and there are fleeting giggles involving the stooges and their high-pitched lingo of Esperanto meets gobbledygook.
Human protagonists are a drab bunch by comparison, even with the introduction of a long lost twin brother for lead character Gru and a new arch villain, who is stuck in a 1980s time warp, necessitating a soundtrack laden with bygone gems including Take On Me, 99 Red Balloons and Into the Groove.
Imagination is desperately lacking.
The animators take a sly dig at rivals Disney Pixar with a throwaway scene of two Minions mowing down unsuspecting clownfish (a la Nemo and his worrywart father) in their underwater craft.
Ironically, it's Despicable Me 3 that sinks.
Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are fired from the Anti-Villain League (AVL) by new head honcho Valeria Da Vinci (Jenny Slate).
The couple shares the bad news with adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Nev Scharrel).
Dr Nefarious (Russell Brand) has accidentally frozen himself in carbonite and the Minions stage a revolt and abandon Gru in search of a Machiavellian master worthy of their talents.
In the midst of this upheaval, Gru discovers the family history spun by his bespectacled mother Marlena (Julie Andrews) is a fabrication.
'You told me Dad died of disappointment when I was born,' gasps Gru as he learns about a twin brother called Dru (Carell again), who was spirited away by the old man following an acrimonious divorce.
The siblings reunite and Gru discovers his father was a criminal mastermind known as 'The Bald Terror'.
Dru implores Gru to teach him the finer points of villainy so he can assume his rightful place at the head of the family business.
Brotherly bonding coincides with the rise of former child star turned master thief Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), who is poised to unleash a giant laser-blasting robot on his detractors in Hollywood.
Despicable Me 3 stretches our affection for Gru, Lucy and their dysfunctional clan past breaking point.
Solid vocal performances can't energise a faltering script and narrative detours involving Agnes's search for a real life unicorn and Margo's acceptance of Lucy as her mother don't merit the screen time.
Visuals are slick and colourful, but beneath the wrapping what we're left with, sadly, is Despicable Meh.