When you make nearly $1.5 billion from your first two films in a franchise, you can pretty much guarantee there will be a third, and likely many more. That’s good news for fans of Illumination Entertainment’s shamelessly manic Despicable Me series and particularly this third installment for Gru and company, which lays on the gags more lavishly than ever.


After a detour a couple of years ago in which the irrepressible Minions were spun off into their own movie, the whole gang is back together for another go-round with Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) as super-spies who in this edition are let go from their gig with the Anti-Villain League after the boss (Jenny Slate) blames them for not thwarting the evil Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a failed former child TV star still smarting over the cancellation of his lame 1980s TV series. In fact that decade plays a big part in this movie, which seems to be celebrating the ’80 in many ways.

The lovey-dovey spies, who have settled down to suburban bliss — or so they thought — with adopted daughters Margo, Edith, and Agnes, get caught up in all the frenetic action of trying to stop Bratt as he careens out of control. Complicating matters is the appearance of Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (Carell, again), who with a Trumpian hairstyle and family secrets reveals he is nothing like his bro. The requisite crazy shenanigans from this Bond-like animated adventure come fast and furious, but its real charm is in the consistency of the laughs and sight gags, particularly whenever the Minions show up.

As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), even if a whole feature film of Minions was a bit too much of a good thing, having them back in a choice supporting role is just the right tonic. And they steal this thing, especially in a couple of standout musical numbers. Accidentally being swept onstage in an America’s Got Talent-type show (actually it is a nod to Illumination’s movie parody of those kinds of shows called SING!) , they dazzle and confuse the judges in a vibrantly improvised song and dance. Later, when they are doing time because of this, they pull off a hilarious prison number to Pharrell Williams’ terrific “Freedom.” Speaking of Williams, he is back providing the songs — his “Happy” from Despicable 2 scored an Oscar nom — and they remain highlights of the movie.

The voice cast is great as always, particularly Carell, who gets free rein with dueling characters and runs with it. Steve Coogan, Russell Brand and others pop in and out, and there’s a very funny one-scene cameo from Julie Andrews as Gru and Dru’s eccentric mother. What makes this series work so well is the inherited spirit of past greats like Tex Avery, Jay Ward or especially Looney Toons. Pierre Coffin, who co-directs with Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon, gets what makes this zany brand work, plus he also supplies many of the Minion voices. Writers are Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Producers are Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy. Universal sends it out everywhere today.

Do you plan to see Despicable Me 3? Let us know what you think.