'Despicable Me 4' Review: There Goes the Neighborhood (2024)

Despicable Me 4 (2024)

'Despicable Me 4' Review: There Goes the Neighborhood (1)

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'Despicable Me 4' Review: There Goes the Neighborhood (2)

The Big Picture

  • Despicable Me 4 is a fun and entertaining addition to the franchise.
  • The film, starring the voice talents of Steve Carell, Kirsten Wiig, Will Ferrell, and Miranda Cosgrove, offers laughs and heartwarming moments for both longtime fans and newcomers.
  • Four movies in, the franchise faces challenges in balancing the new with the old with its introductory characters and situational comedy feeling disjointed and rather thin.

Following its debut in 2010, Despicable Me has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, fast becoming a cultural phenomenon beloved by both children and adults. Blending humor and heart, the bright and colorful animated film has sparked sequels and spinoffs that have turned its characters, particularly its tiny yellow henchmen known as Minions, into box-office juggernauts grossing billions. With a combined five films in the franchise and a seven-year hiatus since its last “Despicable” entry, Despicable Me 4 finally makes its way to the big screen with high expectations. Led by the returning Steve Carrell as former supervillain Felonious Gru, the fourth installment delivers a delightful mix of villainy and family dynamics that fans have come to love. However, it's not without a few minor drawbacks, including a rather thin plot and underdeveloped characters that feel slightly formulaic, detracting from the film’s overall freshness and vibrancy.

Clocking in a smartly paced 95 minutes, the Illumination-produced feature returns with the franchise’s director Chris Renaud to share another comical chapter in the Anti-Villain League agent’s domesticated life alongside his wife (and former secret agent) Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and their three adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Madison Polan). But this time around, we get a few new characters, including Gru and Lucy’s newborn son Gru Jr., a precocious, machiavellian tween named Poppy (Joey King) who aspires to be a villain, and a co*ckroach-obsessed new baddie named Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell). Fold these characters into the dull, safe, and wealthy town of Mayflower thanks to some pointed writing from Ken Daurio (Despicable Me) and Mike White (Migration), and you get some absurdly hilarious situations. At the same time, Despicable Me 4 feels as slim as Gru’s legs in its plot despite maintaining a strong, enjoyable punch through its animation.

Despicable Me 4

Animation

Adventure

Comedy

Gru and his family are back, welcoming a new member, Gru Jr., who causes chaos at home. Facing a new nemesis, Maxime Le Mal, and his partner Valentina, Gru and his family go on the run.

Release Date
July 3, 2024

Director
Chris Renaud , Patrick Delage
Cast
Steve Carell , Kristen Wiig , Miranda Cosgrove , Steve Coogan , Pierre Coffin , Joey King
Main Genre
Animation

Writers
Mike White , Ken Daurio

What Is 'Despicable Me 4' About?

Despicable Me 4 finds Gru coming face-to-face with his arch-nemesis and recent prison escapee, Maxime Le Mal. As he is seeking revenge against the beloved patriarch and his family, Gru, Lucy, and their children must relocate to the suburban town of Mayflower under new identities. Of course, while the parents are focused on what it means for their family’s safety, their three daughters are less excited — especially Agnes, who must leave behind her best fluffy friend (and their family lamb), Lucky.

While Maxime plans to threaten Gru’s newfound domestic bliss alongside his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Sofía Vergara), the transition to suburban life proves hilarious for the family of six. Combining White’s best writing about socially affluent communities with the sight gags we've come to know in the first three films by Daurio, moving Gru and his family to Mayflower is wildly hilarious. Whereas Gru assumes the role of solar panel salesman Chet Cunningham, complete with suburban dad polos and pants, Lucy gets some of the more uproarious scenes as a hairstylist with no experience in their town’s salon. One of the funniest moments is when she is at the supermarket with her daughters. They begin frantically running away from a disgruntled customer in what is one of the best recent parodies of an iconic sci-fi franchise.

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However, their attempts to blend in are further complicated by their neighbor, Poppy, who sees Gru as a one-way ticket to mentorship in evildoing — and she has some very funny, oblivious parents in the form of Perry (Stephen Colbert) and Patsy (Chloe Fineman). These two actors hold their own with some very spirited voice work of characters parodying the wealthy. Meanwhile, Gru Jr. is a big part of the film. Father and son have a running gag as Gru Jr. does everything he can to reject the patriarch's affection. But the family is not complete without its fair share of Minions (Pierre Coffin). Theyellow guys provide a hearty dose of slapstick humor that works every time they’re on screen, as they balance the film’s narrative with some of the strongest, funniest moments. While the three that accompany Gru and his family are kept busy by the bunch, it’s the side story of five volunteer Minions who are given superpowers following an experiment commissioned by previously retired director of the Anti-Villain League, Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) that levels out the film’s somewhat flimsy plot.

'Despicable Me 4' Overlooks Some of Its Best Opportunities

Despicable Me 4 is unquestionably a lot of fun and laugh-out-loud thanks to its signature subversive humor. But in all its fun and familiarity, the latest film skimps on some of the best opportunities it presents itself. The addition of Gru Jr. and Poppy should have brought out a bit more of what it means to play this part for Gru as a former villain turned family man. While Gru Jr. opens up a few layers to his father’s character, his own character is not fully explored. The initial hostility offers funny moments, but it misses the chance to create another dynamic between father and son, like how Despicable Me set up the foundations of a strong father-daughter connection with Margo, Edith, and Agnes. It felt like Gru. Jr was only resistant to his father for the sake of the audience, rather than showcasing a deeper, more emotional depth as to what his aversion is.

The same thing goes for Poppy, whose initial interactions suggest strong allyship — or a formidable villain. But she’s never entirely realized and falls into a minor character dimension, which is surprising as she looked like she was going elsewhere early on. Meanwhile, Maxime’s obsession with co*ckroaches and schemes never quite matches his flashy personality. Instead, it’s underdeveloped. Though wacky, it’s not weird enough and makes him less menacing. Even his girlfriend isn’t doing much except pet her cute, fluffy white dog. This can all be attributed to a thin plot. When it comes to the family, we rarely see Gru interacting with his daughters, let alone his wife. There is a moment when Margo has a bad day at school and instead of Gru taking the time to understand what happened, it’s seemingly more normal for him than anything that warrants a discussion. For a film that took the world by storm almost 15 years ago, the lack of emotional depth and character growth is a bizarrely missed opportunity for an aging audience that could align itself with the joys and pains of growing old like the Toy Story franchise has done.

'Despicable Me 4' Is Still Consistent With the Franchise

While Despicable Me 4’s story is sparse across its 95 minutes, it’s still really funny and offers some of the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer. One of the greatest joys of watching this film in a packed theater was seeing how the film made not just children laugh, but the adults too. It’s a credit to the story blending clever dialogue, character-driven humor, and sophisticated visual gags to ensure there’s something everyone can enjoy. But the film isn’t a game-changer for the franchise, nor does it heighten itself outside of a regular sequel. Instead, it sort of just plays to its strengths — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Gru’s awkward situations and exaggerated physical comedy continue to elicit laughs while powered through the gusto of Carell, who audiences can tell has a lot of fun with the role. His comically thick accent blending warmth and obliviousness makes him achingly lovable, and a character that lives up to his iconic animation status. His co-star Wiig provides strong vocals embodying very specific neuroticisms seen in or even Palm Royale. Her upbeat and determined ethos adds a lot of liveliness and warmth to the film. Though he is new to the franchise, Ferrell’s theatrical performance as a sassy, pompous French villain works well and adds to the franchise’s best voice work that underscores what it means to be a flamboyant baddie. His faux accent and exaggerated delivery make him a memorable character, adding to the film’s charisma and giving audiences a lot to laugh about.

Despicable Me 4 thrives on keeping the franchise’s appeal alive through its distinct style and verve. But it does face some challenges in balancing the new with the old, even with its signature humor and vibrant animation we’ve all come to love and expect. While the film does set up the possibility of another Minions movie with its superhero side plot, the introduction of these shiny new characters and situational comedies is somewhat disjointed and insubstantial, particularly towards the end. Despite these shortcomings, Despicable Me 4 understands its appeal and plays to its strengths. With fun details, vibrant animation, and strong comedic energy, it is a delightful and entertaining addition to the franchise, offering enough laughs and heartwarming moments to satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers alike.

'Despicable Me 4' Review: There Goes the Neighborhood (4)

REVIEW

Despicable Me 4

Despicable Me 4 offers familiar humor and vibrant animation with standout performances. However, it suffers from a thin plot and underdeveloped new characters.

710

Gru and his family are back, welcoming a new member, Gru Jr., who causes chaos at home. Facing a new nemesis, Maxime Le Mal, and his partner Valentina, Gru and his family go on the run.

Pros

  • Despicable Me 4 delivers on the franchise's signature humor and vibrant animation.
  • The animation continues to offer expressive, engaging visuals, which add to the film's comedic and storytelling strengths.
  • Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, and Will Ferrell deliver standout performances, adding depth and humor to their respective characters.

Cons

  • Despite its humor and charm, the plot is somewhat thin and predictable, lacking the depth and complexity that could have enhanced the narrative.
  • The film introduces new characters, but they are not fully explored, missing opportunities to deepen their relationships with existing characters and the audience.

Despicable Me 4 comes to theaters in the U.S. starting July 3. Click below for showtimes near you.

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'Despicable Me 4' Review: There Goes the Neighborhood (2024)

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