In defense of the ‘Despicable Me’ series

Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

7/10 Despicable Me 3 isn’t a movie, it’s a commercial, but it serves the function of a movie quite well.

The movie starts with Felonious Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife, Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), losing their jobs at the Anti-Villain League after Gru lets wanted villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) get away. Gru then learns of and reunites with his twin brother, Dru (Carell). In a B plot, Wilde tries to bond with her new step-daughters. In a C plot, the minions lead a revolt against Gru and end up in prison, which they run with caution tape-yellow iron fists.

So it’s a commercial. You’ve got the main plot about coming to terms with a sibling, a secondary plot for single mothers and another plot for those of us who still like the minions. Gru and Dru and the minions get to play dress-up, so that’s several action figures per character, and there’s a big shiny car that’ll make a great playset. And, of course, the ending sets up the inevitable Despicable Me 4.

There’s a purist argument that movies should be artistic enterprises and not commercial ones, but the reality is they’re both. The bigger a movie is, the more commercial pressure it will face, and the more delicate a balance it will have to strike to retain its artistic credibility. In the face of this pressure, certain movies completely abandon any attempt at a narrative and just serve as commercials, but Despicable Me 3 makes an honest effort to entertain everyone in its extremely broad target audience, though does falter in some noticeable ways. Ideally, you would want a movie to express its themes through one plotline, or have consistent themes across its different plotlines, or have an antagonist that actually connects with the hero’s arc in a meaningful way instead of just beating the tar out of him with ’80s memorabilia to keep parents engaged and sell more toys.

So the plot is garbage, but at least it’s expressed in a passable movie. Through four movies now, franchise co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud (who is replaced by Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon this go-around) have kept the series’ humor grounded in the same slapstick and absurdist influences, so the jokes, at least, have remained consistent, even if the style may have begun to wear on the audience.

Or the characters.

In a sense, the plot is itself the joke. Describing the events of Despicable Me 3 in a cause-effect chain reads like a setup and a punch line. It’s deliciously cartoonish, which is a good thing when you’re talking about a cartoon.

Look, take it from someone who’s made a career out of hating pop-culture — it doesn’t make you cool. If you’re one of those people who thinks minions are annoying and are destroying society, OK. That’s nice. The best thing you can be is quiet, and the worst and most likely thing you can be is a killjoy.

It’s safe to say these movies will never be quite as delightful as the original again, but Despicable Me 3 is far from intolerable and is sure to draw some unexpected laughs if you give it a chance.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at

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