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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Despicable Me 3 is the third installment in the hit Despicable Me franchise about reformed supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his new wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who are both Anti-Villain League agents. This time around, Gru, Lucy and their three girls are invited to Freedonia to meet Gru's long-lost twin brother, Dru (also Carrell). While the violence is mostly cartoonish and silly (think super-sized, sticky chewing gum; violent action figures, and dart guns), it does include high-tech weapons and a destructive super-sized robot with lasers. There are plenty of chases and explosions, and generally it feels a bit heavier on action than the previous movies. Language is mild ("loser," "failure," and "screw up," plus "boobs" in Minion-ese), but the minions occasionally look partially nude (buttocks, etc.), as do Gru and the movie's villain after a weapon blows off their clothes, leaving them strategically covered in pink bubble gum. As with all the Despicable Me films, you can expect strong messages about the power of family and friendship, as well as teamwork and communication. Lucy is a positive female role model, but the cast isn't particularly diverse otherwise.
What's the story?
In DESPICABLE ME 3, Anti-Villain League agents Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are now married. They team up to take down the latest supervillain to pose a worldwide threat: Balthazar Bratt, former child star of a short-lived 1980s TV show called Evil Bratt. Emotionally stuck in the '80s, Bratt (Trey Parker) wants to make Hollywood pay for cancelling his show and turning him into a has-been. Gru and Lucy successfully capture the diamond Balthazar was after, but they aren't able to arrest him. So the new head of the AVL fires them, leaving Gru restless and jobless. All but two of his minions leave Gru's side when he won't go back to being a villain, and then he's informed of something unthinkable: He has a long-lost identical twin, Dru (also Carell), who was brought up by their father (Gru thought he had died) in the foreign country of Freedonia. Gru, Lucy, and the girls set off for Freedonia, where they believe Dru to be the country's richest pig farmer. But then they discover that he's secretly hoping to be a villain like his late father and twin brother. Gru uses Dru and his secret lair full of high-tech weapons and vehicles to stop Balthazar, while Dru believes they're on a twin mission to become villains.
Is it any good?
Predictable but fun, this "threequel" is an amusing, kid-friendly mix of sibling interaction, '80s humor, and irresistibly silly minion jokes. The double dose of Carell -- one dark and bald (Gru), one with a head full of blond hair and a different accent (Dru) -- is hilarious, if formulaic. The twin material (they try to "trade" places for a dinner, fooling absolutely no one but remaining endearing all the same) is funny and easy for even the youngest audiences to understand. The subplot in which Lucy attempts to rise to the occasion as a mother is also quite sweet; watching her go into "mama bear" mode is one of the movie's highlights. And Pharrell Williams' score is enhanced by '80s hits from the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Nena, as well as one showstopping minionese version of Gilbert and Sullivan's "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."
As for the villain, Parker's Bratt is definitely more memorable than the antagonist of the second movie, and his voice is perfectly suited to play a resentful middle-aged man who never came to terms with his fall from celebrity. The '80s jokes and sight gags should appeal to Gen X/Y parents, and Parker's costume itself is worth several laughs. The filmmakers have toned down the extreme minion focus since the second film, which is for the greater good, as a little bit of minion humor goes a long way. But there's still something lacking in this film, which can't quite meet the standards set by the first. Still, while this isn't the best of the Despicable Me movies, it at least promotes positive messages about families, siblings, and loyal friends.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Despicable Me 3 compares to the earlier movies in terms of action/violence. Which parts did you find scary? Did the fact that some of the weapons were silly/cartoonish affect the impact of the scenes they were used in?
Do you think the movie's humor is appropriate for young viewers? Why or why not? Why do you think the minions are so popular with kids?
This series has lots of lovable villains (or former villains). How does the movie make Gru a sympathetic character? Is it OK to root for someone who is/has been a bad guy?
How do sequels typically compare to the original movies? How does this one further the story? Do you think there should be more movies in this series?
- In theaters: June 30, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 5, 2017
- Cast: Kristen Wiig, Steve Carell, Jenny Slate
- Directors: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Communication, Teamwork
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action and rude humor
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