I recently caught up with a couple of family movie “threequels” – Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3. Since neither proved much to report home about, I am being lazy and dealing with both in the same review.
In the case of Despicable Me 3, it’s more of the same. Directors Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon preside over a machine-tooled piece of holiday viewing guaranteed to raise giggles from the young, or fans of the previous movies. But 3 really isn’t as good as 1 or 2, wherein uber-villain Gru was transformed from villain to villain fighter, adopting three little girls and acquiring a wife in the process. With an intact family unit, this one casts its net further afield in search of a story, to Gru’s long lost brother Dru. In the background of all this is former 1980s child TV star Balthazar Bratt, whose petulant refusal to accept his TV show got cancelled at the onset of puberty results in silly villainy set to Michael Jackson music.
As a film Despicable Me 3 is all over the place, meandering into bizarre subplots including goats mistaken for unicorns and inept attempts at parental bonding. There’s the odd chuckle here and there, most of them involving the minions or a bungled heist. In addition, I suppose the 1980s musical references are funny for people of a certain age, but although it is well animated, with decent vocal performances (Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig. Trey Parker, etc), Despicable Me 3 is likely to leave all but the most minion crazed with an indifferent shrug.
Cars 3 proved a bit more positive, in that at least it takes the story in the next logical direction post Cars. Wisely overlooking the inexplicable and convoluted genre leap into spy movie that was Cars 2, director Brian Fee instead concentrates on racing legend Lightning McQueen finding he’s no longer top dog (or rather car) when younger, snazzier rivals interrupt his unbroken run of wins. The rest of the plot revolves around McQueen trying to get his mojo back, but the question is when will he realise he needs to make the transition from racer to mentor? Long after the audience has, and therein lies my major problem with Cars 3: just how predictable it is.
To be fair, Cars 3 proves as impeccably animated as any other Pixar movie. Also, despite being predictable, the film does just enough to be funny when it needs to be, exciting when it needs to be (the races are as spectacular as ever) and poignant when it needs to be. A vocal performance from the late, great Paul Newman culled together from unused outtakes from the first Cars certainly elevates the film. The rest of the cast, including Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer and the usual Pixar suspects (yes, John Ratzenberger crops up again), all do a good job too. Ultimately however, Cars 3 falls someway short of first-rate Pixar, something we have not seen since Toy Story 3 give or take the blip of absolute brilliance that was Inside Out. On the plus side, Lou, the supporting cartoon before the main feature, is really rather wonderful.
In final analysis, Cars 3 has the edge over Despicable Me 3 despite the fact that it isn’t much of an edge.