Monday, November 20, 2017
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Fewer Minions make things better in 'Despicable Me 3'

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Despicable Me 3 doubles down on Steve Carell's silly way with words, a smart idea after too much Minions gibberish spoiled Part 2. They're still here, in smaller doses and somewhat funnier for it.

Carell gets dual roles, one reprising his former arch villain turned doting adoptive father, crimefighter and newlywed Gru. He also voices Dru, Gru's twin brother with luxurious hair who desires to follow the family tradition of villainy. A sharp character kneecapped by a previous sequel gets a playmate, a playful actor gets more of the material he needs.

Cutting back the Minions' screen time also allows the introduction of a amusing bad guy, former '80s child star Balthazar Bratt (South Park's Trey Parker) with a grudge against Hollywood. Despicable Me 3 hits some of its cleverest notes spoofing Bratt's early TV career playing an evil boy wonder with a stupid catchphrase, as if Doogie Howser battled S.W.A.T.

Bratt gives parents something to laugh about, spoofing fads, fashions and dance moves of their day. He's mired in the '80s from his Rubik's Cube lair to his comical hair; high-fade in the front, mullet and bald spot in the back. He's also this movie's alibi for a Thriller-era playlist of pop tune fillers, a must in mainstream animation. Despicable Me 3 is above average animated entertainment, but you can dance to it.

Three engaging oddballs are enough to shape this story but screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have blended family demographics to address. Gru's bride Lucy (Kristen Wiig) feels insecure about her new role as stepmom to three adorable daughters, each of whom have issues to solve, maternally or martial artfully.

Pretty crowded for 85 minutes of movie and that's not counting Dru's rusty, trusty butler (Steve Coogan), a detour to Freedonia where pigs are thick as flies and, of course, those time release capsules of comedy, Minions, all voiced (or jabbered) by co-director Pierre Coffin. Their jokes are mainly what children do at bath or beddy-bye time, pranking, blowing raspberries and bumping tighty-whitey bums. Big laughs from small fry; grownups not so much except for the Minions' accidental audition on a TV singing competition, an opera spoof Bugs Bunny might appreciate.

That's how these goggled suppositories should be used in movies, briefly and with purpose beyond pratfalls. Despicable Me 3 shuttles Minions to the sidelines this time, in mutiny against Gru but whatever reason is appreciated. "Oh, I miss the Minions," Gru says in the midst of crisis. But in the middle of a movie more amusing than expected, we don't.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

   
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