Despicable Me 3 (2017) ☆ ☆ 1/2

I have mixed feelings about this animated franchise just as I have about its most popular feature — the Minions.  On the one hand they are cute and funny and different, yet on the other they are annoying little yellow people (?) who distract attention from the real story. But I like Gru, the main character, enough to stay interested.  Now he has a long-lost brother, Dru, which both excites and frightens Gru with its familial implications.

Co-directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon, this third installment is very fast-paced and colorful.  It introduces villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) as a clever homage to 1980s television (and toys), which should teach everyone lessons about fame — and the despair that results when that fame rapidly disintegrates.  Then it switches gears to the brother story, which mostly neglects Lucy and the kids, but reminds Gru (Steve Carell) how insidiously fun his villainous past used to be.  Finally, Bratt re-enters the story and tries to send Hollywood into outer space.

While the film was entertaining it didn’t maintain its consistency very well.  The opening sequence is loopy fun but the long middle section (where the brothers meet and engage in a heist) is much more serious, before the concluding action sequence, which is very serious for an animated comedy (the kids are in peril, etc.).  I liked the loopy fun stuff better.

It seems like Illumination is attempting to widen its character base for future sequels, which is fine, but more needs to be done with Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who was a standout in the second film but is largely wasted here.  I still don’t know what to think about these Minions; maybe they need to strike out on their own, or maybe do a musical.  ☆ ☆ 1/2.  27 September 2017.

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