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Despicable Me 4 Film Review: Fun & Fitting Sequel

An animated man on the left, and his wife and kids on the right, in Despicable Me 4

As a new instalment in the Despicable Me series, Despicable Me 4 is a fun – if only a little predictable – sequel that sits well with the rest of the franchise.

Directors: Chris Renaud & Patrick Delage
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure
Run Time: 95′
US & Canada Release: July 3, 2024 in theaters
UK & Ireland Release: July 12, 2024 in cinemas

Following the story of a villain – or ex super villain, in this case – is always a fascinating premise for a film, and franchise at large. With the newest instalment of the series, Despicable Me 4 lets the audience back into the world of supervillains and is ready to win the hearts of its fans over with the characters we know and love, as well as some new entries to the franchise. And, of course, the movie also features what is perhaps the most beloved – and marketable – element of the entire series: the Minions, whose presence on screen is once again successful and always funny.

Despicable Me 4 sees Gru (Steve Carell, of The Morning Show) visiting a remote castle in the mountains: the Lycée Pas Bon, his old alma mater. When his high school nemesis, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell, of Spirited), a man who partially turned himself into a cockroach, wins the award for best pupil, Gru and the Anti-Villain League arrest him. But Maxime manages to escape the high-security prison and swears to take revenge on Gru and his family, especially his infant son. With a heightened risk for their safety, Gru and his family have to relocate and assume new identities for their protection. In the new town, they all try and lead normal lives with regular jobs while also attempting to meet their not-so-friendly neighbours: Perry (Stephen Colbert) and Patsy Prescott (Chloe Fineman, of Megalopolis), and their teenage daughter Poppy (Joey King, of A Family Affair).

Part heist movie and part comedy, Despicable Me 4 is structured particularly well. A brilliant opening scene that sees Gru heading to his old alma mater and meeting his antagonist builds the urgency and stakes of the narrative from the very beginning. The many chase sequences, although perhaps overused as a plot device, remain fresh and interesting to watch as they all happen in different settings and with different antagonists involved. Despite being a little predictable – at least for the grown-ups watching – the film’s narrative is built well in the way all the elements come together at the end.

Despicable Me 4 also manages to maintain a sense of novelty in its narrative by introducting new characters. Having Gru and his family move to an entirely new place gives us the chance to explore a whole new world with them, with several exciting characters that become integral to the story. Poppy, in particular, is probably the most fascinating character in the movie: her a subplot, which becomes essential to the overall narrative, is also the most interesting one to see develop on screen. Despite only being present in the fourth instalment of the franchise, Poppy also shows great character development by the time the movie finishes.

The Minions in Despicable Me 4
The Minions in Despicable Me 4 (© Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

The film builds a fascinating family dynamic with the introduction of Gru’s youngest son: Gru Junior. However, I wish the other children had been more present in the film and significant to the plot of Despicable Me 4 instead of showing up on screen simply when it is needed for narrative reasons. After all, part of the charm of the franchise is in this unlikely but sweet family that we don’t see enough of. Instead, the latest instalment of the franchise chooses to focus a lot more on building its side cast rather than expanding on the characters the audience already knows and loves.

The comedy is largely aimed at children and does it well, as proven by the fact that all the kids in my screening could not stop laughing, especially when the beloved Minions showed up on screen. After all, no matter where the story is set or what the film is about, the Minions are guaranteed to be a success in making people laugh. In doing so, however, Despicable Me 4 largely lacks the complexity that some other animation children’s movies have in also delivering some subtle jokes aimed at the adults in the audience.

The Minions are once again used for comic relief in Despicable Me 4, but it feels even more evident and disconnected from the overall plot. With their gibberish language, funny facial expressions, and the absurd situations they find themselves in, the comedy element of the Minions is undeniable. However, with most of the Minions being separated from Gru and his family for a large part of the plot, it inevitably ends up feeling like we are watching two different movies cut together that hardly come together even at the very end of the movie.

Overall, Despicable Me 4 is an enjoyable sequel, especially for the minion-obsessed children and nostalgic adults in the room. It might not be the greatest film of the year, nor a particularly memorable one, but that does not take away from the fun of it all. After all, when you mix characters as unique as Gru and his family with the brilliant and original idea of the Minions, which always guarantees laughter from the audience, you can hardly go wrong. The franchise does not particularly need yet another sequel, but the success of the Despicable Me series is most likely not going to stop anytime soon.

Despicable Me 4 will be released in US theaters on July 3, 2024 and in UK & Irish cinemas on July 12. Read our review of Minions: The Rise of Gru!

Despicable Me 4: Trailer (Illumination)
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