Do spoilers really matter on this one? Either way, you’ve been warned.
despicable, (adjective); 1. deserving to be despised
Walking into the dark theater for this one, I wasn’t expecting more than another Minion-ridden, animated sequel. While I was correct, I was also (pleasantly?) surprised with a little something for the whole family–but mostly, just for mom.
Let me set the scene for you: a washed-up child star turned super-villain steals the world’s largest diamond, with none other than the King of Pop’s “Bad” playing at the heist music in the background. A simple moonwalk was all it took for the moms in the theater to start cackling from nostalgia…and the kids to be confused. I believe that we are all too familiar with hidden adult humor within children’s movies today (see Rango), but Despicable didn’t even bother to keep it a secret in this installment. While this certainly makes the film a little less dreadful for the 40-something’s in the room, it doesn’t keep the focus of the audience that it is marketed to–kids, specifically those who were fans of the first two chapters in the (seemingly) never-ending movie series.
This review wouldn’t even be worth reading if I didn’t mention the Minions, would it? For lovers of the walking Twinkies, you’re in luck. The entire movie, as always, is marketed heavily upon them, even giving the group two full length musical numbers, one performed during a prison escape. Viewers are taught to be weary of them in the beginning, after a strike of Gru’s newfound good-guy attitude causes them to quit and leave their old life “for good”, but expectantly, doesn’t last long. In fact, in the ending scene, the Minions are reunited with Gru and his family, reassuring you that they will most definitely be making a film-length appearance in the next installment. The entire Minion spotlight feels incredibly unnecessary, considering the last movie was literally their own spinoff prequel for the franchise–a serious detriment to the third film. If you’re like me, I’m happy to tell you that there is plenty of other continuing storylines that you will be much more likely to appreciate throughout.
Take, for example, pure Agnes’s love for ~unicorns~. Not only do the children never seem to age in this timeline, but they also have the same passions that they’ve had since the very beginning of the franchise. This time around, the obsession becomes so extreme that she embarks on an adventure into the Crooked Forest on a quest to find a real-life unicorn, accompanied by none other than her sister Edith. A few movie hours and a one-horned goat later, and you’ll be feeling the love along with the characters. While remembrance is nice, especially for the biggest of fans, the truest standout moment of the film is watching Lucy, Gru’s newlywed wife, struggle with understanding what it takes to be the mother of three girls who don’t know her well, or trust her much at all. While this is, again, particularly relatable to the parents in the room, even kids will be rooting Lucy on in the scenes where this dilemma appears, and it even gives the film some depth.
As for how it adds up to the last two (or three, if you include the Twinkie prequel), don’t get your hopes too high. While, as stated above, the animated movie holds some of the original’s values, it is clear that marketing and the media have gotten to the source of this story, making it feel lackluster comparatively. Don’t underestimate the power of marketing, though; in just its first weekend at the box office, it has grossed roughly $18.4 million, hoping to catch up to its predecessor, which has become the sixth highest grossing animated movie in the box office (Rotten Tomatoes). The movie certainly won the weekend, but there seems to be no guarantee that it will win the affection of its young viewers.
Overall, I definitely wouldn’t say that this one lives up to its despicable name, but I also wouldn’t expect any kids I know to absolutely fall in love with it. Between the nostalgia of the 70’s and 80’s looming in the undertones of the main villainous character, and the ‘to be or not to be’ a mother secondary plotline, there’s no denying that this installment wasn’t written with the children, or the franchise’s target audience, entirely in mind. Sorry, Minions, but the parents win this one.