Gru, the reformed super-villain at the heart of the Despicable Me series, has long been overshadowed by his own support cast. The Minions, that indistinguishable rubble of bad guys who look like giant yellow Tic Tacs and talk with all the sense of a wino after dental surgery, have adorably stolen both of Gru’s previous films and had their own (far more successful) spin-off. Despicable Me 3 gives Gru a chance to take back his own spotlight by doubling his number.
Gru now has a twin, Dru, previously kept a secret by their horrible mother. He’s everything Gru isn’t: extrovert, wealthy, optimistic, in possession of a full head of hair. He looks like a fat Barry Manilow and lives on an island mostly inhabited by pigs, dreaming of continuing his late father’s criminal legacy; but he’s rubbish at being bad. Dru has the financial resources; Gru has the scheming brain. Together they hatch a plan to steal the world’s largest diamond from another super-villain, the ’80s-themed Balthazar Bratt, thus fulfilling both Dru’s lust for stealing stuff and Gru’s moral yearn to foil other villains.
It’s rather muddy as plots go and there are many times Despicable Me 3 feels disjointed, like a load of ideas shouted out at an initial brainstorm and not properly refined – but the ideas are fun ones. Bratt, the true villain, doesn’t get enough screen time but every minute he has is a blast. He’s a former child star whose crime-themed TV show was cancelled when he hit puberty and became aesthetically unpleasing. He’s still stuck in the 1980s, conjuring crimes that require hundreds of souped-up action figures, giant bubblegum or a dance-off to Madonna. He’s such a terrific idea that he deserves more than being background to the Gru-Dru plot.
The Minions are still in there, because they’re why half the audience shows up, but given less prominence than previously. They’re a welcome extra, not the main event. With an ending that teases a fourth film, it seems Despicable Me will be around for a while, and if it continues to be as scrappy but cheerful as this, it’s welcome to stay.