Just so we are clear, the Minions always were the funniest part of the "Despicable Me" franchise, ergo why they got their own film. That is a tradition that continues with the release of the third film featuring Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell).


The villainous humor that we loved in 2010's "Despicable Me" has long since been replaced by sappy characters and a generic story. The one consistency is the Minions, though they are better in short humor filled scenes than they were in their own feature length film.


The decline in the laugh meter was acknowledged by the studio braintrust of Chris Renaud, Christopher Meledandri and Janet Healy which led them to have the writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio to somehow put the villainy back into Gru...toughen him up.

Their solution was to introduce Gru's secret twin brother Dru (also Carrell). They were separated at birth when Gru's mother (Julie Andrews) lost; she wound up with Gru whom she was very disappointed in as a villain. Dru, on the other hand prospered in his father's successful villainy business and went on to manage a huge pig farming business as a front for the crime.


Meanwhile, Gru is washed up as an Anti Villain League Agent when he fails to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) a child actor who turns into a disco-dancing supervillian. Gru and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are now raising the girls together with Lucy trying to get a handle on motherhood. But now that they are both out on the AVL, they decide to take-up Dru on his invitation to visit his mansion in Freedonia.


As it turns out, he too was a disappointment to his father since he didn't become a villain and wants to team up with Gru to become a villainous brother team. Of course this is all behind Lucy's back.

In the meantime, the Minions have broken camp with Gru because he has gone soft and get into all kinds of mischief. This is where the film gets saved as they do everything from crash a segment of one of those talent shows with a stirring rendition of I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General from the Pirates of Penzance to taking over a prison by punking all the inmates.


In fact, the Minions are so disconnected from the story that you wonder if the writers were planning on writing them out or simply separating them from Gru. Nevertheless, as the story of Gru/Dru flails along you will find yourself longing for a Minion scene.


Missing is Russell Brand's Dr. Nefario character who has somehow sealed himself in Star Wars carbonite like Han Solo. Gru/Dru's mom is sinfully underused; her scenes of disappointment were classic in the original film. Lucy is even less humorous than she was in "Despicable Me 2"; which means she wasn't funny in the least bit. That leaves Balthazar Bratt to rescue the central story which is clearly directed at the parents of the audience children. Needless to say, the concept of targeting the disco generation has gotten old.


Children will still enjoy it, unlike with "Cars 3" which had zero percent of fun to it. It's bright, colorful and has plenty of easy to recognize slapstick moments. But the studios effort to steer the film back to its villainous roots is awkward at the very least and though it sets up a segue to a "Despicable Me 4", you don't walk out the theater looking forward to it with baited breath.


It's hard to say if the film will make as much money as the previous two because it is not a film you would want to pay to see twice. Once will be enough.


"Despicable Me 3" is a tremendous disappointment barely saved by the always popular Minions. Though the writers understand it is time to put the series back on the villainous track, they fail to realize the concept is also tired.   -- GEOFF BURTON