After being forced out of AVL after failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kirsten Wiig) are contacted by his long-lost twin brother, Dru (Carrell). Meanwhile, the Minions - demoralised because Gru is no longer evil - abandon their master and set off to find a new one...
In the opening scene of Despicable Me 3, there's a very pointed bit of shade towards Pixar - in which Dru blasts past two clown-fish on his way to defeat '80s child actor-turned-supervillain Balthazar Bratt - voiced by South Park's Trey Parker. What follows is a madcap, over-the-top, jukebox action sequence where we see Dru battle Bratt on a tanker that's floating in the air via inflatable chewing gum. What Despicable Me 3 lacks in subtlety or finesse, it makes up for in big laughs and broad humour.
One of the complaints lined against Finding Dory was that it felt too heady and drawn out for children, whereas Despicable Me 3 is clearly aimed at young audiences - and it works for them more than it does for the adults supervising them. The plot is simple enough and lacks the depth and subtext of the aforementioned Dory, but there's still more than enough laughs to be had that it makes for enjoyable viewing.
Steve Carrell's growling accent as Dru is funny enough by itself, but when the twin brother Gru - also voiced by Carrell - is introduced, there's a sense that they've run out of ways to make Gru interesting. Whereas one's crabby and angry, the other is overly enthusiastic. It's fine, of course, but why have Kirsten Wiig's Lucy in there at all if she's not going to act as a foil? The real star, of course, is Trey Parker's character, Balthazar Bratt. The constant blasts of '80s pop hits like Michael Jackson's Bad, Phil Collins' Sussudio, and Van Halen's Jump add a new flavour to some of the fight sequences between the two - but it's his wacky delivery that makes the character. Sure, it's nowhere near as smart, satirical or edgy as South Park or Team America: World Police, but Parker's innate humour more than makes up for this.
As mentioned, Despicable Me 3 isn't trying to be Pixar - but, at the same time, the story and script feels somewhat laboured and laden with endless plot. The competing storylines - Dru and Gru reuniting, Balthazar Bratt's revenge story, the Minions running off, Lucy trying to connect with the children - don't get enough time to mature or develop, and the film flicks between them all in a chaotic manner. The minions, for example, barely feature in the story - probably because Illumination is working on its own spinoff series with them and doesn't want to dilute their popularity by overplaying their hand.
That said, Despicable Me 3 is funny when it needs to be, sweet when it's called for, entertaining overall and mercifully short so that the little ones won't be bored.