Despicable Me 3 (Photo: Universal)

DESPICABLE ME 3
*1/2 (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Kyle Balda & Pierre Coffin
STARS Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig

A constantly ka-chinging cash register disguised as a major motion picture, the utterly banal and utterly boring Despicable Me 3 is largely the animated equivalent of the current Transformers: The Last Knight. While it may not be as stridently idiotic as the Michael Bay dud, it’s similar in that it also merely goes through the motions expected from an established and profitable franchise. It’s full of rote sound and fury, but while it’s tempting to say it signifies nothing, that wouldn’t exactly be correct. It signifies the continued standing of Hollywood as the ultimate babysitter, providing harried parents an opportunity to dump off their little darlings somewhere, anywhere. If Minions are involved, so much the better.

What made Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) unique in the 2010 original was that he was a villain, only softening toward the end of the film. That sharp edge was filed down in 2013’s Despicable Me 2, since he was now a full-fledged good guy. In this latest outing, he’s only grown more uninteresting as a character, so the filmmakers compensate by introducing a twin brother named Dru (also Carell). Alas, he’s even more bland than his sibling.

The sop to adults who are unfortunate enough to accompany their kids to see this comes courtesy of the villain. Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star in the 1980s, is now a mullet-topped super-villain, committing his crimes while backed by Top 40 hits from the era (Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, a-ha, etc.). It’s calculated rather than clever, and it’s just one more sign of the crushing laziness that this picture proudly if perversely displays at every conceivable turn.

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