There’s a lot going on in ‘Despicable Me 3,’ an effort to disguise that there’s not much left in this universe
“Despicable Me 3” feels like a TV show. Or rather, like multiple episodes of a TV show, all airing at once.
As such, it makes for a rather disjointed experience. It’s loud and busy and desperately wants you to like it, like an attention starved child who keeps tugging at your shirt tail. “Like me! Notice me!” it screams, from the opening frames right up until the closing credits.
Kids movies weren’t always like this. Once upon a time they were patient and unhurried, but those days are long since gone, and “Despicable Me 3” follows the modern mold to a T. More, more, more, the louder and the faster the seemingly better has been the M.O. for some time. (Even the good ones suffer from bloat; most Pixar movies tend to end with an apocalypse of effects whirring by on screen.)
Amid the chaos, here’s a partial list of the various things going on in “Despicable Me 3”:
■An evil, ’80s-obsessed former child star named Balthazar Bratt (voiced by “South Park’s” Trey Parker) is on a rampage and is out to steal a giant pink diamond and destroy Hollywood;
■Gru (Steve Carell), the series’ star and former bad guy turned bad guy-chasing agent, is fired from the Anti-Villain League after failing to apprehend Bratt during the opening sequence;
■Gru learns he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru (also Carell, doing a truly grating sort-of Swedish-by-way-of-Russian accent), who wants Gru to return to his dastardly ways;
■Agnes, the youngest of three adoptive daughters of Gru and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), is on a mission to find out if unicorns are real;
■The Minions, the little yellow creatures that look like banana stumps and who out in the real world have been merchandised within an inch of their life, leave Gru behind, wind up on an “American Idol”-style singing competition, land in jail, plot their escape to break out and perform choreographed dance routines to Pharrell Williams songs.
That’s pretty busy, and director trio (!) Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon shuffle between these stories like they’re flipping channels.
The hope is that the more they throw at you, something will stick, and they’ll wind up hitting on something for everybody: action for the boys, unicorns for the girls, Minions for the Minion completists (they’re their own group), ’80s pop music references for the parents.
The truth that emerges through it all is the “Despicable Me” franchise is running out of gas; in addition to the first two films, there was also a “Minions” standalone effort in 2015.
The “long lost twin brother” angle is a staple of narratives that have begun spinning their wheels, and it’s surprising this franchise went there so fast, but here we are.
Within the movie, there are some asides that feel like in-jokes on the production. “I miss the Minions,” Gru says at one point, while he and Dru are scaling up a wall trying to enter the bad guy’s lair, and at that point, the movie misses them, too. Elsewhere, Margo remarks “now we’re looking for a unicorn, for some reason,” seemingly as confused about the story thread as the audience.
“Despicable Me 3” has some laughs, but not enough to prop up what feels like a flagging franchise. If “Despicable Me” is a TV series, it’s in danger of being canceled.
‘Despicable Me 3’
Rated PG: for action and rude humor
Running time: 96 minutes