Despicable Me 4 (2024)

Review by Kahn Duncan

It has reached a point where Illumination doesn’t even need a Despicable Me film to have a plot to be successful – just barrels of brightly coloured buffoonery. It continues to be the highest-grossing animated film franchise of all time. The latest sequel Despicable Me 4 is less of a story than a line-up of clip reels that muster a few giggles. Other than the franchise staple slapstick the movie has little to offer besides continual corporate mandates and an overstimulating pace. It is a minions shaped cash cow that does not need to care about artistic quality. If it ain’t making Universal broke – no need to fix it or change it at all. With the exception of re-casting voice actors who get too old for their never changing characters.

After the success of Minions: The Rise of Gru, a prequel that gave rise to a phenomenon known as ‘Gentleminions’ where young boys in droves would go to the film dressed in a suit, Illumination was keen to return to the billion-dollar grossing flagship series. Money is the primary motivator; there needs to be more bold and creative decision-making in a series now six films deep.

The animation looks the same: slick, shiny and with enough colour to pop an iris. The music is still ham-fisting in pop needle drops. Even the kids are still the same age – is Despicable Me is on animated autopilot.

With as much narrative thrust as an empty tank of petrol, the film reintroduces us to Gru (Steve Carrell), his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and his three daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Madison Polan), who are now living in domestic bliss. Gru and Lucy now share a son, Gru Jr, who loves to smile at his mother but scowl at his father. Lucy and Gru are still agents for the Anti-Villain League. Carrell still has fun in the role, while Wiig takes an unfortunate step back for much of the film.

Things become interrupted when Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), a supervillain from Gru’s past, escapes prison with his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Sofía Vergara) to wreak havoc on Gru and his family. To escape Maxime, the family is thrown into witness protection and relocated to a different neighbourhood while all the minions stay behind under the care of Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the previously retired director of the Anti-Villain League.

Once all the characters are established, the film turns into a sequence of sub-plotted vignettes. Lucy pretends to be a hairdresser (a highlight of the film is an audio riff on Terminator 2 when it all goes wrong in the salon), and Gru gets blackmailed into a heist by their new neighbour, Poppy Prescott (Joey King).

Poppy’s parents, Perry (Stephen Colbert) and Patsy (Chloe Fineman), are wealthy, country club-going folks who get caught up in the mix. Meanwhile, Silas and the minions test a new technology to give the banana-loving friends super strength. All this happens at a million miles a second with no cohesion.

It is a worrying sign when ‘mega minions’ are the biggest draw card to this new entry – Despicable Me‘s take on superheroes. As transparent creations to sell new toys rather than innovative new characters (there is even a joke where a woman in passing proclaims, “I’m sick of superheroes!”). Franchise ennui has never gotten in the way of a cheap pencil case before, so it probably won’t now.

Maxime Le Mal is a disappointing foil for Gru – annoying, side-lined and uninteresting. Ferrell’s fake French accent is sure to grate. In a shuffle of scenes where it spends more time on minions hitting each other on the head with a swimming noodle, blowing up a room with popcorn, or using superpowers to blast the holes in Swiss cheese, an engaging spy narrative becomes less and less viable. Thankfully, if you are coming for that the physical humour – you will be well rewarded.

Despicable Me 4 is the perfect film to babysit and entertain young children for 90 minutes. Parents will either be bored senseless by the thinly connected subplots or find light entertainment in the minions and their exaggerated, physical antics. Gru and his family have little emotive weight left to grasp, especially compared to the more emotionally mature Inside Out 2, its current box office competitor. An exploration of complicated fatherhood – this film is not.

As an animated sequel that embodies randomly scrolling on TikTok, this film may provide constant dopamine hits every 10 seconds but be forgotten entirely and immediately after. It is mindless, harmless, studio childminding but worthy of a few chuckles.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Most of these stupid films are 90 minute babysitters, nothing more. A testament to American parenting in the 21st century….ugh.

    Reply

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