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Sunday 21 July 2019

Despicable Me 3 movie review: 'This gag-laden kids' animation is bright, breezy and doesn't hang about'


One in a minion: Gru played by Steve Carell and his comic sidekicks
One in a minion: Gru played by Steve Carell and his comic sidekicks
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

This gag-laden kids' animation is bright, breezy and doesn't hang about.

What is a minion? It's a question worthy of Socrates, and though they first appeared to human eyes in the 2010 hit animation Despicable Me, zoologists reckon they've been around a lot longer than that. Short, bean-like and bright yellow, they have a love of all things mechanical and speak a kind of musical gibberish that sounds faintly Latinate. Some have one eye, others two, but all yearn to serve the most terrible villains. No shortage of those around the world at the minute, but don't expect minions to start popping up in the White House windows any time soon, because Bob and his troop have always been loyal to Gru.

For years he kept them well supplied with bad deeds and bananas (minions love bananas), but as this film opens, the yellow horde is not happy. In Despicable Me 2, after a Pauline conversion, Gru (voiced with terrifying gusto by Steve Carell) settled down with his true love Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and three adopted daughters and became a respectable member of the Anti-Villain League. Bob and co have grown tired of hanging around fulminating in the basement, and decide to strike out on their own.

Gru, however, barely has time to miss them when he's fired by the new boss of the Anti-Villain League.

A master criminal called Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) has stolen the world's biggest diamond, and Gru let him get away with it. He vows to get his own back on Bratt, a former child TV star who loves bad 1980s pop music, wears brightly coloured leotards and does Jane Fonda-style workouts. And Gru will received unexpected assistance from the twin brother he never knew he had.

Dru (also voiced by Carell) lives in a grand palace in the tiny European kingdom of Freedonia (one of several references to the Marx Brothers), has lots of hair and is as wildly optimistic as his brother is pessimistic. Somehow, he and Gru actually hit it off, but when Gru sets out to steal back the giant diamond and put an end to Bratt's world-dominating schemes, his keen twin will prove more of an impediment than a help.

While careering through its 90-minute storyline, Despicable Me 3 rarely pauses for breath. Its premise is established at breakneck speed, and Gru had battled Bratt, lost his job and met his long-lost brother before I was quite settled in my seat.

The animation in these films has always been functional rather than innovative, and their real strength is their sense of humour. That dipped somewhat in Despicable Me 2, which was hamstrung by Gru's decision to become law-abiding, and by an over-reliance on the slapstick comedy of the minions.

They certainly are compelling little chaps. But the fact remains that a little bit of minion goes a long, long way.

Lessons have been learned, and their antics are used much more sparingly and intelligently here. At one point, they get sent to prison, and terrify the other inmates by going around in close formation, humming and clicking their fingers like the Sharks and Jets in West Side Story.

In the film's funniest scene, the minions break into the set of a television talent show, and emerge on stage just as the opening bars of the 'Major-General's Song' from Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance are striking up.

They know it, and launch into a stirring version rendered in their usual impenetrable gibberish.

It's a priceless moment, and while one could argue that Desperate Me 3 could have done with a few more of them, the film is funny enough to justify its existence, and should have nippers rolling in the aisles.

Trey Parker's 1980s super-villain Bratt is oddly unsatisfying however.

He has all the constituent elements of a funny bad guy, but somehow it all fails to gel.

Despicable Me 3

(G, 90mins)


Films coming soon...

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey, Marisa Tomei); Sanctuary (Stephen Marcus, Tara Breathnach); The Midwife (Catherine Frot, Catherine Deneuve); Souvenir (Isabelle Huppert, Kevin Azais).

Irish Independent

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