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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Despicable Me 4: Gru and his Minions are back but this adventure is much less fun

Steve Carell reprises his role as Gru, who is now facing a new threat: his childhood nemesis Maxime Le Mal, voiced by Will Ferrell

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 10.07.24, 03:51 PM
A moment from Despicable Me 4, now running in cinemas

A moment from Despicable Me 4, now running in cinemas IMDb

The loveable villain-turned-dad Gru is back after a seven-year break in Despicable Me 4, the latest instalment in Illumination’s hugely popular franchise. While it has all its signature elements — vibrant animation, wacky new characters and the unputdownable Minions — the film struggles to find its comedic focus.

Steve Carell reprises his role as the reformed supervillain Gru, now facing a new threat: his childhood nemesis, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), who’s recently escaped prison with revenge on his mind. Fearing for his family’s safety, Gru moves them to a sleepy town, leading to the predictable ‘fish out of water’ hijinks. Meanwhile, the Minions, now working at the Anti-Villain League (AVL), continue with their brand of chaotic amusement.

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Adding to the film’s frenetic energy is Poppy (Joey King), a young, overly enthusiastic villain obsessed with K-Pop group BTS. Poppy attempts to blackmail Gru into a heist, a plot thread that ultimately fizzles out. These parallel narratives compete for screen time and the film groans under the sheer volume of gags and subplots. Screenwriters Mike White and Ken Daurio seemed to have prioritised slapstick humour over a finely-crafted story.

The new characters fail to make a mark, especially Maxime Le Mal, despite his quirkiness (Maxime has a fascination for green cockroaches and is driven by a grudge from the schooldays involving a talent show mishap). Like him, his accomplice Valentina (Sofia Vergara) has little to contribute beyond exasperated sighs. Their presence comes at the expense of the Minions, who are the beating heart of the franchise.

Thankfully, the film shines when the Minions take centrestage. Their ragtag team even consists of superheroes this time, inspired by the likes of Spider-Man and Elastigirl, which is fun. These moments, riding on the Minions’ incomprehensible language and physical comedy, elicit the heartiest laughs.

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