'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Opening in theaters on July 3rd, ‘Despicable Me 4’s is Illumination Entertainment (and distributor Universal) unleashing the latest salvo of their behemoth franchise.

The success of ‘Despicable’ movies is almost comically predictable at this point, and while the latest offering does very little that’s really new, it seems certain to appeal to the family target audience.

Related Article: Movie Review: Minions: The Rise of Gru

Will ‘Despicable Me 4’ Keep the Family Happy?

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Though it would be wrong to say that the franchise really matures, the new offering does at least represent the usual evolution of the story, as it finds Steve Carell’s Gru well and truly settled into family life. Yet his villainous past once more comes back to haunt him when a rival threatens his domestic bliss and the Gru clan is forced to retreat to a safe house.

Plus, any movie featuring Gru is contractually obliged to include the Minions, and here there is a new spin on that concept, albeit a slightly tired satire of a genre that has long since been spoofed beyond reason.

Script and Direction

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Written by ‘Despicable’ veteran Ken Daurio and in a slightly surprising turn, Mike White (though 'The White Lotus’ boss is also credited with last year’s ‘Migration’, also from Illumination), so he’s clearly found a side gig groove with the animation company.

Don’t go expecting any ‘Lotus’-level depth here (not that you would from a knockabout cartoon effort), and the movie is refreshingly free of hackneyed attempts to teach family bonding lessons, mostly because they’ve all been covered before by the ‘Despicable’ movies. The gags come thick and fast, but the main issue with the screenplay and the movie on which they are based is that it all feels like separate elements that eventually try to gel for the big finish, but never feel like they’re all in the same plotline.

Gru, for example, not only has to deal with an old nemesis coming back, but a new potential threat, and the screenplay doesn’t really juggle them as effectively as they might, with several feeling underserved.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Kudos, though, to the team for two referential jokes that feel like they were layered in specifically for the parents bringing their kids to this one –– particularly a ‘Terminator 2’ moment that really works.

Chris Renaud (another ‘Despicable’ veteran) and Patrick Delage (who has worked his way up from the animation department into more of an overall leadership role here) oversaw direction. And rather than trying to change what was working about the look and feel of the movies, they kept to the basic template –– lots of Minion moments (even if, like the split plotlines, they feel like separate skits that are crowbarred into the story until they serve a point at the end. And even then, they feel like a throwaway afterthought.

If you’re taking kids who are really only there for the squat, chattering, yellow pill-shaped nuisances, you might be better off just re-watching old shorts and moments online.

Performances

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

The voice cast is predictably entertaining –– many of them have been at this franchise long enough to bed into their roles. Where things fall down somewhat is a by-the-numbers script that doesn’t really give them much that’s fresh.

Steve Carell as Gru

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Carell knows how to knock out a Gru line in his sleep these days, but he throws himself into the role with typical relish. He’s a little isolated from the rest of the family for large stretches of the story, but he bounces well off of Joey King, who plays Poppy, a teenager with criminal aspirations of her own.

Will Ferrell as Maxime Le Mal

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Will Ferrell here plays Gru’s old schoolmate and nemesis, but though Ferrell tries out a cod-French accent to try and get something new, he’s rarely all that memorable. An obsession with cockroaches seemingly opens the door to Minion-style madness, but his insect army is established and then quickly forgotten. In the ranks of gadget-obsessed villainy that have cropped up in the movies, Le Mal doesn’t really pop.

And that goes double for his girlfriend, Valentina (Sofia Vergara). It seems clear that either there is more of her role on the cutting room floor, or Vergara spent roughly 10 minutes in the recording booth as Valentina is a largely pointless character.

Stephen Colbert, Kristen Wiig and More

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Stephen Colbert, Carell’s old ‘Daily Show’ colleague is always good value matched against him (here as snooty, preppy new neighbor Perry Prescott.

Kristen Wiig, meanwhile, gets some meatier material as Lucy Wilde, Gru’s wife, including her attempts to become part of the new community where they’re forced to move.

And finally, there’s Gru Jr. the family’s new addition (who mostly just makes gurgling and other infant sounds). He’s a fun diversion, a child who simply doesn’t like his father (until…. Well, that would be spoiling things, but you can guess).

The Minions do their thing as usual, and their superhero spoof is diverting if not really effective at this point when we don’t really need another example of poking fun at the genre.

Final Thoughts

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Gru and co. are such reliable money spinners for Illumination at this point that they could probably just put out 90 minutes of Minions babbling and slapping each other, and family audiences would crack open their wallets to see it.

You might find yourself wishing for something truly revolutionary, but it’s unlikely to disappoint the diehard kiddie fans.

‘Despicable Me 4’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.

Despicable Me 4

"Things just got a little more despicable."
74
PG1 hr 34 minJul 3rd, 2024
Showtimes & Tickets

What’s the story of ‘Despicable Me 4’?

Gru (Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and their girls —Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Madison Polan) — welcome a new member to the Gru family, Gru Jr., who is intent on tormenting his dad.

At the same time, Gru faces a new nemesis in Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Sofia Vergara), and the family is forced to go on the run.

Who else lends their voices to ‘Despicable Me 4’?

The voice cast for the new animated movie includes Joey King, Stephen Colbert, Chloe Fineman, Pierre Coffin and Steve Coogan.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

'Despicable Me 4' opens in theaters on July 3, 2024. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Other Movies in the 'Despicable Me' Franchise:

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