Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Despicable Me 4

You know you're in trouble when the main plot of the film is its weakest aspect. The latest from the Illumination franchise introduces Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) as a longtime rival for Gru (Steve Carell) whose feud started in their boarding school days. Opening at the class reunion, Gru and the AVL take down the super-villain whose latest scheme involves transforming himself into a human-cockroach hybrid and arming himself with an army of smart cockroach soldiers (his own Minions so to speak) and an array of cockroach-style technology.

With Maxime breaking out of prison almost immediately, and swearing revenge, Gru and his family are relocated to a safe house in a sleepy resort town and given orders to try and fit in. Yeah, I don't see that happening. They take three of the Minions with them, the rest are carted off to to AVL who plans to make spies and soldiers out of them (which even Gru snickers at and wishes them luck). Given their decision making, one wonders how AVL remains covert and in business.

Introduced, and then almost immediately thrown out of the script, the cockroaches are obviously a way to give a villain his own Minions (although we don't ever see a single confrontation between them and Gru's boys). Maxime, an over-the-top Ferrell in a weak French accent, isn't much of a villain and disappears for large chunks of the film allowing various subplots to take his place all with greater success.

The witness protection angle is really just an excuse to set up a series of gags showing how Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) can't fit-in in the regular world. The scenes with the girls are extremely limited this time around focusing on Agnes (Madison Skyy Polan) struggling with being given a new name, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) fretting about starting over at a new school (the struggles of which take place entirely off-camera), and a single confrontation with the girls at karate practice. Far more time is devoted to Gru attempting to bond with his infant son in sequences that feel inspired by The Incredibles 2 but with the wackiness cranked up to 12.

I think my favorite part of the film involves the family's new neighbors who include a would-be teen villain (Chloe Fineman) who blackmails Gru into being her partner for a heist and eventually becomes an unofficial member of the family. We also get plenty of Minion craziness as well with them out of control in the spy offices and attempts by AVL to give five of them super-powers with, let's just say, mixed results. Both of these threads are far more interesting, and either of them could have been expanded into a much more intriguing film, than the main story that really only picks up in the final 10 minutes when Gru must step up to protect his family.

The young kids at the screening I attended seemed content with Despicable Me 4, although it didn't earn any huge laughs from the audience. The attention of the adults was more mixed. This is definitely a kiddies film rather than a family film. There's little of the heart that was central to the first couple movies of the franchise, and although the Minions still provide their share of zany shenanigans they are mostly separated into their own underdeveloped story. Despicable 4 feels like four films, none of which were ever thoroughly thought-out, mashed together with decidedly mixed results.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Despicable Me 4
  • IMDb: link

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