Despicable Me 4 – movie review

The Despicable Me series, created by French filmmaker Pierre Coffin, has developed and expanded over the past 14 years, and the franchise has grossed over $4 billion worldwide. Given its success it’s no great surprise that we now have a fourth film in the series (not counting the two stand-alone Minions movies). Over the course of the series its central character Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) has also undergone a marked change.

It’s been seven years since the last Despicable Me movie, The Rise Of Gru. The reformed supervillain is now a crime fighter. And he’s a family man who tries to juggle his two different roles. His wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) has given birth to a baby boy, named Gru Jr, who resembles his father.

But Gru and his family are their domestic bliss is threatened by Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), a supervillain who has the ability to transform himself into a giant cockroach. For their saftey, they’re placed into witness protection. Maxime is a former rival from Gru’s time at an academy for evil teens. But Gru recently humiliated him when he and agents of the Anti-Villain League captured him during a class reunion.

The family is relocated to the picture-perfect town of Mayflower where Gru struggles to fit in with the country club set. Lucy lands a temporary job with a local hair dressing salon. Then Gru is approached by his neighbour’s precocious daughter Poppy Prescott (Joey King). She turns out to be an aspiring super-villain in her own right; and blackmails him into helping her break into his old school and steal its mascot, a ferocious honey badger. The whole heist sequence itself is silly but full of energy and visually well done.

Meanwhile five of the yellow minions are chosen by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the previously retired director of the Anti-Villain League, to be transformed into super-powered Mega Minions with a blast of radiation. But, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man before them, the inept minions struggle to harness their newfound superpowers, which provides some big laughs.

Despicable Me 4 has been co-written by Mike White (better known for the Emmy award winning TV series The White Lotus and the movie School of Rock) and series regular Ken Daurio. The film is very busy with several subplots interwoven through the narrative. At times it feels like several short film ideas have been thrown together. The film fails to mine its fish-out-of-water scenario for big laughs. However, the theme of family resonates strongly throughout and the subplot in which Gru attempts to bond with his son adds emotional heft to the material.

Directors Chris Renaud, a veteran of the series, and Patrick Delage (a former animator making his directorial debut here) maintain an energetic and fast pace throughout. As usual the gibberish-talking, helium-voiced minions (voiced by Coffin) and their zany slapstick antics steal the movie.

The impressive cast adds some new characters to the mix, and the producers have assembled a solid voice cast to flesh out the characters. A typically manic Ferrell brings energy and over-the-top humour to his voice work as the villainous and heavily accented Maxime. TV talk show host Stephen Colbert brings a dry wit to his role as Perry, Poppy’s father; while Sofia Vergara voices Valentina, Maxime’s femme fatale girlfriend and partner in crime.

Despicable Me 4 is perfect entertainment for the whole family, especially for the school holidays. It will certainly entertain younger audiences with its colour and movement and the antics of the minions, but older audiences may begin to feel a little jaded by it all now.

Greg King

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