The third installment of the Despicable Me franchise is as silly as its prequels, lacking a sense of attitude suited to anyone that is not a child, according to Christian Tesfaye. 4 out of 10 stars
I always have a hard time reviewing animated movies. I have always believed that the greatness of cinema lies in its visual vitality.
Animated films may be colourful, but they have never reached the sweeping beauty of some of the greatest live action movies.
When a camera moves, when there is a tracking shot, a dolly or a pan, there is a powerful composition of images that computers and hand-drawn pieces have never been able to replicate.
This is not to say that animated movies could not be great. They are just great in a different way. I agreed with filmmaker Brad Bird when he said that animation is not a genre, but a medium unto itself.
The best live action movies are fantastic audiovisual configurations which make great use of angles, shadows and spaces.
The best animated movies have wide-ranging themes, a sustained plot and tasteful dialogue. Wall-E or The Lion King would have been just as great movies if the latter was animated in 3D and the former in 2D. On the other hand, imagine Citizen Kane in colour, or Gone With The Wind in black and white.
There are more high-profile animated movies than ever. It is because animated movies are some of the highest-grossing genres, perhaps only behind superhero movies.
Children are proving themselves to be stalwart cinema goers. Last month’s Baby Boss was in theatres at Matti Multiplex for at least five weeks. On top of this, animated movies can make their investors a lot of money through merchandising rights in toys, lunchboxes and t-shirts.
One franchise that is capitalising on the popularity of its characters is the Despicable Me film series. The first film came out in 2010.
It was about Gru (Steve Carell), a top villain who ends up adopting three orphans to pull off a big heist. It was a funny enough movie, but far from a great one, ending exactly as we expect it to.
Gru, being a villain, owns minions to help him out in his devilish endeavours, themselves called Minions. The Minions turned out to be far more popular than Gru himself, even getting a spin-off movie of their own, which grossed more than any of the individual Gru starring movies.
There is a new villain in Despicable Me 3 – a disgraced child actor called Bratt (Trey Parker) who used to play a “bad boy” in a TV series. He now wants to do in reality everything his TV character has done fictionally.
All he needs is to steal a gigantic pink diamond. Gru thwarts his plans but fails to capture Bratt, which gets him fired from the secret agency he works for. Gru is despondent until he learns he has a long-lost twin brother.
The twin is called Dru (also Carell) and is a wealthy pig farmer. But that is just a cover for the real family business, which is villainy. Dru wants Gru to teach him how to be a villain, none the wiser that Gru has given up this way of life.
Bratt, on the other hand, steals the diamond and tries to destroy the city that rejected him, Hollywood.
I am sorry to say I do not like the Minions. I have never found them funny nor cute. They are annoying yellow creatures whose attitude reminds me of Kevin Hart’s inanity.
Despicable Me 3, like all the other films of the franchise, includes these characters, and they perform some supposedly funny gags.
With the exception of one prison sequence, which was mildly funny, and triggered in me a slight but identifiable facial realignment that could be described as a smirk, I was unimpressed with the mute idiots.
Gru and Dru are voiced by Carell with a strange accent. The accent may be meant to comment on the heavy pronunciation of some Hollywood villains, which may have become stereotypical.
Aside from this, Gru is also highly unattractive, with a long thin nose, a disproportionate upper body and a bald head. As befits a worthy villain, he is also always dressed in black.
And if it was not for the franchise’s complete lack of polish, especially in plotting and narrative, Gru might have been an iconic character. He could have been the animated version of Tony Montana, he could have been wry.
Instead, from the very beginning, the character has been drawn to meet the sophomoric notions of children and certain grownups.
Despicable Me 3 is similarly inane. It fails to understand what has made movies like Ratatouille both fun for children and satisfactory to adults. It lacks a sense of attitude suited to anyone that is not a child.
It is adrenaline charged, it sprints from one emotion to another, from one subplot to another, as if afraid we would notice the frivolity and ask for our tickets back. If it is not obvious, I do not recommend this movie.
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