Despicable Me 4 Movie Review: Gru-elling addition to the franchise

Despicable Me 4 Movie Review: Gru-elling addition to the franchise

In an attempt to give everyone a moment in the spotlight, Despicable Me 4 suffers from underdeveloped subplots.
Despicable Me 4(2 / 5)

When you book tickets for a Despicable Me film, you expect two main things: a generous helping of Minion mayhem and a sprinkle of outlandish villainy. Despicable Me 4's funniest bits, like always, come courtesy of the Minions' broken English, like Pierre Coffin muttering "Antipasti. Strudel. Fire in the hole!" in their signature gibberish. Unfortunately, these golden moments are fleeting. The rest of the film juggles four or five storylines that never quite come together, leaving a messy and bloated narrative. While Despicable Me 4 attempts to differentiate itself from past entries, it ultimately falls back on a familiar formula, delivering a forgettable experience with occasional comedic sparks.

Director: Chris Renaud

Cast: Steve Carrell, Will Ferrel, Sofia Vergara, Kristen Wiig, Joey King, Miranda Cosgrove, Pierre Coffin

In the fourth round, a double whammy is thrown at Gru (Steve Carrell). On the one hand, he tries to bond with his newborn son Gru Jr, who despises him. On the other, he is targeted by a vengeful old enemy, Maxime Le Mal, seeking payback for past slights. This time around, the film brings fragmented parts and tries to join them together with hard glue, making it look and feel like Frankenstein's monster. In an attempt to give everyone a moment in the spotlight, Despicable Me 4 suffers from underdeveloped subplots. A cute scene of Edith defending Agnes in karate, for instance, adds nothing to the overall story. Similarly, a lengthy supermarket sequence with Lucy (Kristen Wiig) feels like a comedic detour rather than a meaningful plot point. Even the Minions, usually the film's comedic heart, are relegated to extended cameos. Their genius leader, Dr Nefario, is practically sidelined, appearing in just one scene.

However, a saving grace in the film is the unexpected comedic spark between Maxime Le Mal, voiced by the hilariously French-accented Will Ferrell, and Valentina, brought to life by Sofia Vergara (channelling her inner Gloria from Modern Family). Their witty banter evokes memories of Gloria's dynamic with Jay in Modern Family, injecting a much-needed dose of freshness into the film's predictable script.

The character of Gru Jr, while undeniably adorable, ultimately falls into familiar tropes: the clueless child unintentionally aiding villains. The Minions get their own superhero moment, transforming into Mega Minions (a clear nod to Fantastic Four) in a wacky scene. However, beyond their flashy Mega Minion transformation, they offer little more than slapstick humour, failing to contribute anything meaningful to the climax. Despite a frantic third act that attempts to tie loose ends, Despicable Me 4 struggles with disjointed storytelling. It explores Gru's insecurity about his son, Gru Jr, favouring his mother. However, the lack of prior development for this conflict makes the emotional payoff fall flat. Similarly, the supposed enmity between Gru and his nemesis, Maxime Le Mal, feels superficial, diminishing the film's impact. To add to the overstuffed plot, a random subplot emerges with Gru mentoring a new character, Poppy (Joey King). These separate narratives resemble an anthology more than a cohesive film.

With that said, there’s no doubt that Illumination delivers a visual spectacle in Despicable Me 4, pushing beyond their usual boundaries. We see a coffin morph into a weaponized wheelchair and a chariot sprout bat wings for aerial combat. Signature Minion mayhem abounds, with them officiating a hilariously one-sided tennis match to protect Gru and tackling baby duty—think cleaning, powdering, and diaper changes. These scenes are fascinating and offer plenty of giggles.

At the end of the film, after the villain is defeated, we see Gru and Maxime perform a version of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears. In that pre-credits scene, we see all the past Despicable Me villains vibing to their performance. Out of the lot, Valentina takes a minute to let out a rather long ‘sigh’ which shows her feeling of ‘meh’ at the performance. That reaction might resonate with some viewers who, like myself, found the overall film a bit underwhelming.

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