I was speaking to a friend the other day around the time Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was released, when I mentioned that film was next on my review slate, said person stated the question that invariably pops up anytime the next entry in a line of sequels come out: "Ugh, do we really need another one?"
One may as well ask: Do we really need any film? Or any work of art? Films on their own are not necessary on a practical level, so they don't qualify as a "need" or "necessity". The industry, let 's not forget, was predicated by, and built for entertainment. It's ability to instruct and inform can be argued to be completely ancillary; a side effect, as opposed to it's raison d'etre.
But for many others, some films do "need" to exist for a particular viewer or set of viewers. Some of those cinematic franchises touch people in ways others do not. Your milage as to their value may vary. However, there are some films that, despite the perceived onset of franchise fatigue, do need to be made.
Despicable Me 3 is one of those.
You might think I've taken leave of my senses, and you're probably right. After being fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing yet again to capture the 80's obsessed villain Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, South Park), Gru (Steve Carrell) suffers an identity crisis funk until he is approached by the long lost brother he never knew, Dru (Carrell again, pulling double duty) and offered an opportunity to return to his villainous ways, even as Lucy (Kristen Wigg) suffers an identity crisis of her own, from both being unemployed and not knowing if she could ever act as mother to Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (newcomer to the series Nev Scharrel). All this compounded by a Minion Mutiny, led by Minion Mel (Pierre Coffin). It would be difficult to keep things fresh in a three film series (four, if you count The Minions), but at least directors Peter Coffin, Kyle Balda, and Eric Guillon do their best, even if the results is mixed. The compare and contrast between Gru and Dru, for example, is an interesting take, evoking Mad's "Spy v. Spy" aesthetic without aping their characterizations, with their relationship serving to show Gru in a different light. The push and pull between Lucy and the girls aren't given the type of conflict one would expect, and this is also a good thing, even as it feels like the undermining of story potential. Trey Parker's "Bratt" lives up to his name and, while it's not a vocal performance that could be deemed revelatory, he services his character well, even if annoying vocal call backs to Randy Marsh pop up now and then. The musical choices of Heitor Pereira and Pharrell Williams are interesting and, in a couple of cases, inspired, enhancing the zany shenanigans.
As always, the animation is top notch, with the characters, their actions, and movements exaggerated for great effect. In this film more than most, the story, such as it is, follows suit. What I mean to say is that the story is not as structured as the previous entries, and thus more random gonzo "squirrel" moments take place. Needless to say, the Minions' antics remain highly amusing, but the directors have learned that "less is more", and credit them to find a way to minimize their involvement that fits within the narrative. The humor is hit and miss, but much more the former than the latter this time around.
Given the above, it does seem like there's very little that makes this film stand out from the current staple of summer '17 films. Of course, that's me speaking as an adult critic...one that takes into account the audience he sat with. The target audience were enraptured, completely caught up in the film, laughing where they should, feeling apprehensive when the film called for same, and cheering at the climax. Manipulative? Absolutely. Name one of the competition's animated staple that isn't. The point here is that in a world that seems more bleak and uncertain than ever, and one that is reflected more so in entertainment, a film that allows itself to be silly and corny while reveling in same is one that is "needed" more than ever. Despicable Me 3 is escapist, silly fun. Thert's no pork about that.