Despicable Me 3 is expected to be another box office smash, but the latest instalment in the animated adventures of reformed super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) finds the DM franchise showing signs of sequel fatigue.
Now happily married and a doting father to three adopted girls, Gru fights crime for the Anti Villain League, alongside his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig). However, after he fails to apprehend jewel thief Balthasar Bratt (voiced by South Park's Trey Parker), a former child star sartorially and musically stuck in the 80s, in the film’s hectic opening sequence, he is fired, and finds himself on the scrap heap.
Jobless, and abandoned by the crime-hankering Minions – who've gone off in search of a new master to serve, only to quickly wind up in prison – Gru finds himself struggling with his identity and domesticity.
In an uninspired attempt to have their cake and eat it, the writers conjure up a twin brother, Dru (Carell again), who tries to entice Gru back into a life of crime. Together they hatch a plan to break into Bratt's lair and steal back the diamond he lifted in France while disguised in a Gerard Depardieu fat suit.
Although much of this is fun, Despicable Me 3, while colourful and beautifully animated, feels oddly flat. The twins twist is lazy, and a pervasive sense of deja vu, created by hitting familiar beats, gives the impression of a franchise that's marking time.
This is a shame, because Gru, his family and the Minions remain appealing creations, especially when interacting with each other. Part of the problem here is they're all off doing separate bits of business in their own plots, most of the time, giving the film a sketchy, scattered quality.
Despicable Me 3 isn't bad, but it paradoxically feels like a movie that is trying too hard and not hard enough.