Following the success of the 2015 spinoff/prequel Minions, Despicable Me 3 bounces into theaters with a preposterous plot, ludicrous characters, brazen nostalgia and remorselessly silly gags. In short, it's perfectly fit for breezy summer fun.
In the latest adventure of the grumpy-yet-goofy Gru (Steve Carell) and his beloved babbling Minions, the former supervillain turned good-guy spy is happily married to the perky Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and raising his adopted daughters, the bookish Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), the mischievous Edith (Dana Gaier) and unicorn-obsessed Agnes (Nev Scharrel). But their harmony is rattled when Gru and Lucy are fired because the nefarious Balthazar Bratt (South Park's Trey Parker) slipped through their fingers. Then Gru discovers his long-lost twin brother Dru (also Carell), who's insanely wealthy and desperate to get into the villainy game. While Dru pressures his brother to return to a life of crime, the Minions have become fed up with Gru's legit lifestyle, and run away to find a new maleficent master.
There's a lot of plot in the mix. But Despicable Me 3 functions like it has ADHD, leaping from one thread to the next with a hyperactive whimsy, so even the most easily distracted won't be bored. Here are a few minutes of brotherly shenanigans. Then we jump to Agnes and Edith trying to capture a real unicorn in the crooked woods of Dru's homeland, Freedonia. Next, we chase the Minions as they wreak havoc on a studio lot, then become the baddest gang in a towering prison. Then we leap into the twisted backstory of Bratt, a former child star bitter about Hollywood's rejection of his awkward adolescence. If he can't be famous, he'll be infamous, reenacting the sinister schemes from his 1980s TV show, employing a variety of wacky throwback props, from a disco-ball grappling hook, to a Rubik's Cube bomb, and a sound wave-shooting keytar. Meanwhile, the mature-beyond-her-years Margo teaches Lucy how to be a mom. The bad news is not all of those arcs are terribly interesting. The motherhood thread is too thin to justify its screen time, and your mileage on the Minions may vary. But brothers Gru and Dru, and the thieving Balthazar Bratt are pretty irresistible.
Although the twins look mostly identical, Dru brandishes a relentless enthusiasm while he saunters about his estate in shining white suits, tossing his lush blond locks. He's the giddy yin to Gru's grouchy yang. And while there's initial resistance and jealousy from the scowling Gru, even he can't resist Dru's charms. The pair bonds over high-tech gadgets and a thrilling diamond heist that boasts some outrageous pratfalls and much caterwauling. Carell makes a feast out of lending his voice, squeals and screams to the brothers, making their every moment an easy joy. However, it's Bratt who's the scene-stealer.
Much as Minions dove hard into 1960s allusions and music to appeal to parents, Despicable Me 3 relishes in the garishness and good tunes of the '80s. As promised in an early trailer, big-haired Bratt pulls off his crimes with the swagger of a pop star. Fueled by his cassette of Michael Jackson's "Bad," Bratt pumps up his sneakers, wiggles his dramatic shoulder pads, then moonwalks across open water to reach an ocean liner. He pops off bubble gum that expands and envelops security guards, bystanders and any other obstacle. And all the while, dancing with old-school moves that are sure to delight kids who find them rightfully silly, and adults who blushingly remember them all too well.
While there's plenty of inventive and hilarious action built into this kooky crime-comedy, Despicable Me 3 is at its best with Bratt. There's a musicality to his motions that dares the audience to anticipate his next move. Paired with a rocking soundtrack, comedic beats burst with wit and energy. As he floats an gum bubble-lifted ocean liner into a metropolis, it's odd and exciting. When he challenges Gru to a dance fight, the film portrays it as the ultimate showdown, and so the comedy comes naturally from a place of absurd stakes. And Parker's game for every zany beat, bringing fresh sass to the franchise with every cackle, howl and shamone!
Fans of the Minions will be pleased too. The little yellow maniacs roll along their own wild ride, which includes a show-stopping musical number, a cheeky prison montage and a suitably bonkers escape plan. All this makes for a movie that's undeniably charming, although not especially ambitious in its storytelling, animation or emotional stakes. But sometimes you just want a summer movie that'll make you laugh. Staying true to its formula of willfully silly comedy, Despicable Me 3 delivers laughs, surprises, and a satisfyingly fun adventure.
Despicable Me 3 opens Friday nationwide.