Superheros in "Despicable Me 4" Doesn't Make Film 'Super'

Despicable Me 4

Director: Chris Renaud
Starring: Steve Carell
Studio: Illumination

Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: PG (For action and rude humor)

At one point early in “Despicable Me 4” Gru (Steve Carell) is having a conversation with his daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrave) in the car in front of his daughter's new school. They have had to move recently and Margo is concerned about being able to make friends at her new school. Gru discusses how he wasn’t very popular in school, but that he eventually made friends, and since she is much cooler than he ever was, he is confident she will make friends as well. Though still unsure about herself, this gives her the confidence to get out of the car and start her first day at her new school. 

The scene stands out because while it is simple in nature, it shows that these characters can feel just as real as any on-screen actor, and it is these moments of which the first two ‘Despicable Me’ movies found their voice in a crowded animation field. The scene also stands out because it is one of the few genuine scenes of emotion in a film filled with mindless slapstick comedy and a story that is more than a little boring. I know kids and families come to these movies for cheap entertainment, but does it have to be THIS cheap?!

The story: Gru is happily working for the AWL and has taken on the task of arresting the supervillain Maxine (Will Ferrell), who has not only won the award for Best Supervillain of the Year but has also created a serum that will give anyone in contact with it the power of cockroaches (apparently, everyone forgot “Joe’s Apartment,” which showed that animated cockroaches were not appealing for viewers to have to watch for extended periods). When Maxine escapes from prison though, Gru and his family (which includes new baby Gru Jr. in the mix) must join a witness protection program for their

So, alright, this isn’t a terrible idea for a story. Why Gru – with all of his gadgets, alliances, and skills – can’t take on Maxine himself is a valid question, it does uproot the characters and give them a new scenario to work out. The problem is the movie is largely more interested in putting the characters through wacky situations rather than giving them anything of substance to contemplate. Gru keeps trying to get invited to his neighbor's country club for reasons we never understand. Lucy becomes a hair stylist and must face the wrath of an angry customer when she accidentally lights her hair on fire.

The most fun subplot is when the neighbor's teenage daughter recognizes Gru and blackmails him into helping her pull off a heist. Actually, now that I think about it, a teenager with aspirations of becoming a supervillain is a concept that may be worth exploring in a spin-off film, but that is neither here nor there at the moment. I suppose it is funny that Gru Jr. loves mom but secretly loathes dad to the point of torturing him, but none of this is telling a story so much as it is having characters do things for the sake of doing things.

Even the Minions themselves are given thankless tasks, as several of them are given Marvel superpowers, and then put in random situations where all they do is make things worse for everyday civilians. If you’re going to give the Minions superpowers, you better have them join in the climactic final battle. Overall, I doubt this review will sway many minds. Kids will be entertained and parents will get a nap in theaters with comfy reclinable chairs. Meanwhile, the box office gets another boost. It would be a win-win for everyone if the much better “Inside Out 2” and “Robot Dreams” weren’t also in theaters (and if you’ve already seen them, they are worth seeing again as opposed to seeing this once).