William Lee is a graduate of UC Irvine and Chapman with degrees in Film Studies and Screenwriting. He has held a life-long passion for all things geeky including comics, film, toys, and video games. He was previously a Senior Reviewer for over a decade with Movie Metropolis (formerly DVD Town). Will is a regular of the convention scene in Southern California and has been attending cons since 1993. You can also find him on Facebook as William D. Lee Photography

Who could have thought a bunch of walking, talking Twinkies would make Despicable Me Illumination Entertainment’s most successful franchise? Those wacky Minions have carried the series to three films, two spinoffs, dozens of shorts, and multiple theme park attractions across the world. They’ve even become an integral part of Illumination’s studio logo. You almost forget there are other characters in the Minion world.

Despicable Me 4 sees the return of Gru (Steve Carell), the reformed supervillain with a pointy nose and a thick Eastern European accent. His role from bad guy to good guy began when he adopted three precocious little girls named Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Madison Polan). Next, he falls in love with the lovely Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), a top agent for the Anti-Villain League. As the fourth film unfolds, Gru has long since settled into the domesticated role of daddy, especially since Lucy has given birth to Gru Jr. The latest addition to the Gru family has his father’s scowl though he bears a strong resemblance to Jack Jack from The Incredibles. In a nod to The Simpsons, the children of the Gru clan haven’t aged a day since the first film.

While attending a class reunion at his alma mater, Lycee Pas Bon (a Hogwarts for aspiring supervillains), Gru runs into his old nemesis Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell). An eccentric French madman, Le Mal has crossed himself with cockroach DNA to give himself all of that grotesque bug’s greatest strengths. After escaping from an Anti-Villain League prison, he vows revenge, forcing Gru and his immediate family to relocate to the small suburban town of Mayflower as the Cunninghams. There, Gru clashes with his snooty next-door neighbor Perry Prescott (Stephen Colbert). To Gru’s utter dismay, it is Perry’s teenage daughter Poppy (Joey King) who becomes the true problem. Poppy threatens to blow Gru’s identity unless he assists her in a grand heist as an audition for Lycee Pas Bon.

Meanwhile, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the AVL’s head honcho, gets the bright idea to experiment on five select Minions. They become the Mega-Minions with superpowers such as flight, super-strength, and laser eye beams. Unfortunately, their clumsiness and ineptitude leads them to cause more mayhem than good.

Ken Daurio returns as screenwriter, along with Mike White, who also penned Illumination’s Migration and created the acclaimed The White Lotus for HBO. Daurio and White keep the story moving, but the overall plot feels like several animated shorts stitched together. There’s the fish out of water story with Gru and Lucy adjusting to suburban life while Margo having a hard time in a new school is barely touched upon. On top of that, we veer into the heist genre with Gru reluctantly taking on a new apprentice. The slapstick shenanigans of the Minions also help to fill out the 94 minute runtime. The little ones at my screening were certainly entertained. Directors Chris Renaud and Patrick Delage provide plenty of clever sight gags, such as Poppy and her chonky cat playing Dance Dance Revolution with stone faces and flailing limbs. There’s also a parody of Terminator 2 as Lucy is chased through a supermarket by an angry socialite.

Will Ferrell is deliciously over-the-top as the antagonist with Sofia Vergera as his duck-lipped moll Valentina, replete with poofy poodle. Both are a bit underutilized. At one point, the filmmakers make a grand entrance into Maxime’s secret lair in the sewers that are populated by a legion of cockroaches equipped with tiny army helmets. We never see them again so anyone looking forward to a Minion-cockroach battle royale will leave disappointed. 

The score by Heltor Pereira is peppy and Pharrell Williams returns to provide a few original songs, except none of them are quite as catchy as “Happy.”

To be honest, I remember almost nothing about Despicable Me 3. I know I’ve seen it and I know Gru meets his long-lost twin brother. It certainly didn’t make an impression on me the way the first and second movies did. Even the Minions prequels had a certain charm to anyone who has a high tolerance for their antics and pseudo-language. Despicable Me 4 isn’t necessarily a return to form. It lacks the heart of the original film and the story is overstuffed with numerous plotlines. However, this fourth installment has enough charm to keep you entertained and chuckling for an hour and a half.

Film Rating: 6

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