Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 30 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 2; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
This third visit to the loony world of Gru and his Minions turns out to be a bubble gum movie, thanks to the new villain Balthazar Bratt (voice Trey Parker). The movie begins with a reporter recalling the child star of a once popular TV series called “Evil Bratt” in which Balthazar played a junior genius super villain. As he grew older, the show was cancelled, so the young man turned to real crime.
Aboard an ocean liner Balthazar seeks to steal the world’s largest diamond by raising the ship up in the air with his powerful super bubblegum, but Gru (voice Steve Carell) prevents the theft, but the wily would-be thief manages to escape. Despite Gru’s protecting the diamond, the new head of the Anti-Villain League fires him, and when Lucy (voice Kristen Wiig) tries to intervene, she is fired too. Back home the Minions suggest that Gru return to villainy, but when he refuses, they revolt and all but two walkout on him.
The next morning the girls are willing to sell their toys for the family’s upkeep. A stranger named Fritz (Steve Coogan) arrives with a message, but Gru does not want to be bothered. When the visitor persists, Gru sends him skyward in a rocket. The battered messenger returns, informing Gru that he has a twin brother living across the sea in Fredonia who wants to reunite with him.
Thus begins another round of crazy adventures that will bring all the above together again when Balthazar manages to steal the diamond from a Paris museum. Gru’s mother (a delightful Julie Andrews) reveals that he does indeed have a twin named Dru, she, adding that when she and her husband divorced and agreed to split up the boys, she was given second choice. Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell) turns out to be very wealthy and sporting a large tuft of yellow hair that would be the envy of Donald T Trump. His great desire, he announces, is for Gru to teach him how to become a super villain and pull off one last spectacular heist.
Directors Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and their staff of writers, animators, and voice cast give us a fun-filled revisit to the daffy world of Gru and the Minions. There are crazy chases, including one in which the brothers are chased by cops riding on pigs! And there are several touching family moments, one of them in which Gru’s three adopted girls call Lucy their mom for the first time.
Having seen the first two films and thinking not much could be added to the series, I had put off seeing this one due to so many other films awaiting review. I am glad to have at last caught up with it. The movie would have been okay on a small screen, but the scenery and cityscapes (set in Hollywood and L.A.) would not have been nearly as spectacular as on a large screen. (Hollywood and the surrounding city almost get bubble gummed out of existence by the new super villain. Spider-Man has his web strands, Balthazar wields his magic bubble gum.)
Just as the first film dwelt on the power of love for family to transform the villainous Gru, the third film continues this theme. Gru refuses the temptation, coming from his beloved Minions, to return to his life of crime, even though there is motive to do so by his unjust ouster from the Anti-Villain League. Paul’s advice to the church at Ephesus, which apparently included some former thieves like Gru, could easily be directed at him. His Minions, and then his new-found brother, would pull him back to his life of crime, but his love for Lucy and the girls is stronger. This little feature is no Wall-E or Up, but it can serve as an enjoyable visual parable.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the October issue of Visual Parables.