Gru Sticks his nose into Another Uninspiring bit of Minions IP.


It’s usually no surprise when the fourth film in any given franchise finds itself sputtering.  Such is the case for Despicable Me 4, the latest minions-milking entry in the signature series of the animation studio known as Illumination.  

Thin on gags, plot, and reasons to care about anything, the film feels far more like a parent studio-mandated cash machine rather than a justified story with anything new to say.  It’s loud, lazy, and garish like most any non-Pixar mainstream animated film of the past two decades.  One would have to look reeeeeeal closely to see what sets Despicable Me 4 apart from the raft of its saturated, noisy, hyper-inclusive peers.  So rather than hash that out ad nauseum, what say we cut our losses and make with the obligatory spoiler-free premise summary with parenthetical cast member notations and call it a day.

[OBLIGATORY SPOILER-FREE PREMISE SUMMARY WITH PARENTHETICAL CAST MEMBER NOTATIONS] Former supervillain Gru (Steve Carell) speeds to his newest assignment as an undercover agent for the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to arrest French badguy-at-large Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell, meaning we were this close to a Megamind/Despicable Me onscreen pairing.  The animated supervillain protagonists, both having debuted in 2010, only previously squared off at that year’s box office).  The cockroach obsessed Le Mal uses the invasive critters the way Gru uses his minions, but more wince inducing.  It’s been observed that minions are like the cockroaches of the Despicable Me universe, only cute and funny.  Perhaps Chris Renaud, the longtime director of this series, heard those comments and this is his retort.  Someone call a real exterminator.

The entanglement with Le Mal doesn’t go well, leading the AVL to relocate Gru’s family to an insufferable yuppie hell community where smug, snobby country club-going neighbors are overly voiced by Stephen Colbert and Chloe Fineman.  New identities are assigned; wackiness follows.  Gru’s wife Lucy’s (Kristen Wiig) new job in a hair salon sends her uptight first customer running to a wig shop.  Their three adopted kids are total deadweight here, their only purpose in the story is being sad about having to move.  Also, now Gru and Lucy have a baby.  The baby does not like Gru.  Aww, why doesn’t the baby like Gru?  Will Gru’s baby ever come around to liking his lovably terse daddy? And while he’s at it, might he play some role in haphazardly saving the day in the end?  

Despicable Me 4, above all, demonstrates that what started off as a wonderfully inspired standalone comedy fourteen years ago has been made to age into something stale.  Only one thing sets Despicable Me 4 apart from the hordes of other trying obnoxious animated family time wasters.  (And I point this out purely out of villainous spite rather than in the interest of some altruistic ideal…).  That reeeeeeal close look at the film (the degree of closeness depending on one’s race, generation, and sensitivity to such things) reveals, gasp, a stunning lack of diversity among the cast and characters.   Every single important character (and many of the throwaway ones) in this traditional family values-espousing mouthpiece of a movie is glaringly Caucasian.  The only People Of Color in the world of Gru and company are fleeting background characters.  Although we do see several People of Color as inmates during a prison scene.  (!!!)  My oh my.  In this time of carefully calculated surging progressivism in animated family movies, just what evil message is being sent here?  

In closing, I declare that the despicably anti-progressive Despicable Me 4 wouldn’t know “woke” if “woke” were an angry honey badger clawing at its face.  (The movie does have an angry honey badger, by the way.  Cue twenty-year-old inappropriate internet comedy bit…). #IlluminationSoWhite?  As proof, I quickly comedically pan to the movie’s writing credits.  {Swoosh!}. This film is co-written by one Mike White!  Mike White, sir, you’ve drifted a long way from your Jack Black-fueled screenwriting days of acceptable White supremacy.  This is no School of Rock or even Nacho Libre.  I’ll have you know that I see a White door and I want it painted Black.  Then, you and everyone else involved in making this grotesque piece of boring capitalist entertainment should close said door and comedically sneak away in an exaggerated manner.  That’s what I’m doing, right now.