6 days ago

Despicable Me 4: A Franchise overextended?

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Over the past ten years, the Despicable Me series has transformed from one animated film into an extensive franchise. Each sequel has broadened the world and added new characters. The original 2010 movie introduced us to Gru, a well-meaning yet inept supervillain, along with his lively yellow Minions.

By 2024, the franchise had four major features and two Minions spin-offs, and it continues to captivate fans with its unique sense of humour. However, the latest film, Despicable Me 4, pushes the series to its limits.

Steve Carell returns as Gru, now a hero in the Anti-Villain League and father to his adopted children and his new-born son, Gru Jr.

Gru's peaceful life is disrupted when his old school rival, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), escapes from a supervillain prison and seeks revenge. Maxime and his girlfriend Valentina (Sofía Vergara) devise a plan involving genetically engineered cockroaches and a cockroach-themed aircraft. This forces Gru and his family into witness protection. The movie is full of chaotic subplots that are fun but don't come together to create a strong enough story.

Despicable Me 4 is a film with many narrative threads, each with potential but still needs to be fully explored. The main plot revolves around Gru and his family assuming new identities in a suburban neighbourhood, evading Maxime's vengeful plans.

However, the film quickly diverges into multiple subplots, such as Gru's eldest daughter's challenges at school, his youngest daughter's pet goat issue, and the Minions' superpowers.

The family's preppy neighbour, Poppy Prescott, blackmails Gru into helping her achieve her dreams. These subplots offer moments of humour and charm, but they often feel like filler. The 90-minute runtime needs more narrative cohesion, with scenes as setups for gags rather than advancing the plot.

Despite its flaws, the film delivers on the franchise's signature slapstick humour. A particularly memorable scene involves a wealthy victim of Lucy's bad hairdressing chasing her through a supermarket, reminiscent of the T-1000 pursuit in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

These moments of broad humour and clever visual gags satirizing modern consumerism provide some of the film's most enjoyable sequences.

However, the film's reliance on humour cannot mask its narrative shortcomings. The overabundance of subplots leads to a fragmented viewing experience, with many potentially exciting storylines abandoned shortly after being introduced.

Gru's rivalry with Maxime, which could have been a central conflict, is frequently sidelined in favour of less compelling diversions. Even the relationship dynamics within Gru's family, a core franchise element, must be developed more.

The voice performances are mixed. Steve Carell's portrayal of Gru remains humorous, while Kristen Wiig's portrayal of Lucy shows enthusiasm.

Will Ferrell, as Maxime's accent and over-the-top villainy, might look funny at times, but they don't create a lasting impression. Meanwhile, despite their familiar presence, the Minions have been reduced to supporting roles, with their shenanigans feeling more superficial than necessary.

Despicable Me 4 is a silly film entertaining its target audience with chuckles and visual gags. However, the franchise's weak narrative hints that the franchise may be running low.

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