To call Despicable Me 3 desperate would be to ascribe too much effort and passion to the thing. Ice Age: Collision Course, now: There was a properly desperate sequel. That beast had a blissed-out hippie temple of eternal youth formed out of radioactive crystals from space that the prehistoric heroes had to launch into orbit in order to avert a doomsday asteroid. That might not be the Platonic essence of desperation in its chemically purest form, but it’s really close.
Now consider the two main developments in Despicable Me 3: Gru meets his long-lost twin brother and battles a smug former child actor stuck in his 1980s glory days. Was anyone even trying, or are they just going through the motions?
You could call Despicable Me 3 a lazy patchwork of random, half-formed bad ideas randomly stitched together. The original film was about Gru’s redemption through his growing paternal bond with three young orphaned sisters whom he ultimately adopts. In the first sequel, he married anti-villain agent Lucy Wilde (Kristin Wiig).
Here there’s a seemingly important early scene with Lucy and the three girls at a local festival in the fictional country of Freedonia, where they are visiting Gru’s brother Dru, also voiced by Carell. (The name Freedonia, a rather pointless reference to the Marx Brothers’ classic Duck Soup, is far from the only pointless reference in the movie. For instance, there are also pointless references to Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.)
The festival scene reveals that Lucy is struggling with the challenges of being a new adoptive mother to the three girls. As a superagent, she’s more than capable of defending them physically from any threat, but mature, responsible young Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) observes Lucy indulging the girls’ every wish and confides that sometimes moms have to be firm and say, “No” — a challenge to which Lucy immediately tries to rise, only to discover that she’s lost track of the two younger girls.
Any notion that Lucy will have a character arc in which, like Gru in the first film, she grows into motherhood (proving herself capable of being appropriately firm, saying, “No” when necessary and keeping her eyes on multiple kids at the same time) falls by the wayside after that scene. Instead, Lucy goes on to prove her maternal worth to the girls by sticking up for or protecting them — the one area where she didn’t need to grow.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.