Despicable Me 4 (2024)
Despicable Me 4 (2024)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: July 3rd, 2024 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Chris Renaud, Patrick Delage Actors: Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Sofia Vergara, Joey King, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Madison Skyy Polan, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan

 


 

A

t the Lycee Pas Bon School of Villainy, where a Class of ’85 alumni reunion takes place, notorious evildoer Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) is about to receive an award. But this celebratory event is spoiled by the Anti Villain League’s top fixer, Gru (Steve Carell), who nabs the most-wanted Le Mal. Unfortunately for the former moon-stealer and all-around baddie, this heroic act puts Gru in the crosshairs of revenge; the temporarily-imprisoned and permanently cockroach-obsessed Maxime plots to steal Gru’s newborn, to be transformed into his very own roach-like offspring.

There’s a new heavy (with a conspicuously stereotypical accent), a new mission, and a new baby boy (to round out Gru’s family, consisting of three adopted girls and wife Lucy [Kristen Wiig]), but this film has never felt like more of the same. It’s a weird thought to think that Gru has procreated, but now – as before – he’s forced to blend in and conduct himself more like an ordinary citizen (he’s essentially a governmental secret agent going into hiding) by fleeing his home, moving into a safehouse, and adopting a fake identity in an AVL protection program for the preservation of his family. Of course, the Minions also return, though they once again appear solely for comic relief, having very little to do other than roughhouse, engage in mischief, and cause light trouble. “We can actually be a normal family for once,” Gru comments, though he’s been domesticated considerably since the first picture anyway.

The bulk of the setup for “Despicable Me 4” is agonizingly routine and terribly juvenile; minimal consideration is taken for the adult audiences who will have to accompany their children to see this for the Fourth of July weekend (though it’s highly probable that this will be regarded as a wait-for-streaming occasion). It’s all uncommonly generic, from the dialogue to the character interactions to the gags; during many sequences, it’s downright boring. The slapstick is repetitive and overly familiar, while the butt jokes and phony cuteness of the children are uninspired. Even the development of “Mega Minions,” which borrows from “The Fantastic Four,” never capitalizes on its potential, instead utilized for a mere montage of comic catastrophe, before surfacing at the finale in a tremendously flubbed, feeble manner. And the roles of their malevolent counterparts – enhanced cockroach swarms – are equally neglected, having absolutely nothing to do with Maxime’s master plans (and downfall). “That was painful.”

Perhaps worse than the plot, which features too many similarities to “The Incredibles” to count (from the baby to the vehicles to superpowers to specific activities), is the lack of dependable laughs. Plenty of humor works its way into the scenes, but it’s always small and brief; there are essentially no grand ideas for complicated hilarities. Plus, a joke about a credit card error at a gas station, a real hairdressing assignment for Lucy (who is only pretending to have that career, which turns out disastrously, leading to a bizarre Terminator nod), a Guitar Hero moment, and a wheelchair-bound principal introduce concepts that wouldn’t appear to have any appeal to the film’s target audience. Who is supposed to chuckle at these scenarios? Likewise, Maxime’s girlfriend Valentina (voiced by Sofia Vergara) has not a single second of genuine funniness; her character is altogether pointless. “It’s good to laugh, no?”

The unsteady nature of the comedy is immensely disappointing for a project that depends so singularly upon it (this series has never been one for deeper morals or emotional impact). Fortunately, it’s mildly satisfying to see Gru escape the awkwardness of a tennis match against a country club snob, or when he revisits his heisting days (joined by the part-nasty, part-manipulative, part-helpful, part-enthusiastic neighbor kid Poppy [Joey King], whose attitude flip-flops repeatedly) – though this also establishes just how irresponsible he is at parenting – or when the Mega Minions fail to use their powers wisely. But by the end, this third direct sequel (separated by additional “Minions” entries) is just so extremely childish and silly – the cinematic epitome of beating a dead Minion.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10