Mission Lab 2018

REVIEW: Is ‘Despicable Me 3’ family-friendly?

June 30th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: Is ‘Despicable Me 3’ family-friendly?

There’s a reason that the quirky man we call “Gru” is our favorite villain-turned-hero. He’s funny. He’s clever. And if you watch him long enough, you’ll discover he has a big heart, too.

But despite having three beautiful young daughters and a lovely wife, things aren’t going so well for our world-saving crusader.

That’s because there’s a new villain in town who keeps getting the best of Gru. His name is Balthazar Bratt, a washed-up actor-turned-bad guy who headed the No. 1 TV show (“Evil Bratt”) for three glorious years in the 1980s and then fell out of the spotlight once it was canceled. Today, he spends his time listening to 80s music, wearing 80s clothes, and stealing anything that will keep his name on the front page of the newspaper. And he stores it all in his Rubik's Cube mansion in the sky.

Despicable Me 3 (PG) opens this weekend, continuing the saga of Gru (Steve Carell), his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), their three daughters, and, of course, the love-them-or-hate-them Minions.

The plot turns when Gru fails to nab Bratt (Trey Parker) during a theft of the world’s biggest diamond, which leads to the firing of Gru and Lucy in their roles at the Anti-Villain League. Searching for a job and for his purpose in life, Gru heads across the globe to meet his newly discovered twin brother Dru (Carrell), a rich underachiever who reveals that their father was a famous villain: “The Bald Terror.” Dru wants Gru to return to his old ways.

“Face it … villainy is in your blood,” Dru tells him.

What will Gru do?

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Violence/Disturbing Images

Moderate. Although it’s mostly the slapstick for-laughs variety. Bratt performs karate and kicks several people. Gru and a villain punch one another. Bratt lands darts on peoples’ foreheads. Gru tricks a visitor to his house into crashing a rocket in the adjacent neighborhood (the man is injured, but fine). Gru shoots missiles at a villain. Bratt, sitting inside a building-size creation of himself, destroys parts of a city.   

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. We see a beach scene, with bikinis and some cleavage. Gru’s clothes are blown off (the scene is quick and everything except his bottom is covered). Seconds later, he is hanging from a giant bubble gum bubble, with a wedgie. We hear a comment about a girl “looking hot.” The Minions, while celebrating something, strip to their underwear and rub their bottoms. A pig pokes at Gru, who responds, “That’s my private part.” One of the Minions, in jail, exposes his bottom to get a tattoo. Some of Bratt’s dances throughout the movie are borderline risqué, including one scene in which he gyrates his hips while sitting on a workout ball. (Note: A scene from the trailer, in which Gru’s mom slaps a muscle man’s buttocks, is not in the movie.)   

Coarse Language

None, other than a jeesh, a “son of a” that doesn’t include a curse word, and a heck.  

Christian Images/Dialogue

Agnes prays in her bed for help finding a unicorn.

Life Lessons

Animated movies typically fall into one of two categories: 1) funny with a point, 2) funny without a point. Thankfully, Despicable 3 falls into the former category, and it carries several life lessons for families.

First, Gru faces a major temptation to return to his old way of life—the life that seemingly comes natural for him. Second, he encounters peer pressure from his brother and family to uphold the family tradition of villainy. Third, Gru consistently puts his three daughters and his wife first—prioritizing them in a way rarely seen in the real world, much less in animated films. Look hard, and there even are lessons on jealously and workaholic-ism.      

Worldview

God isn’t mentioned in Despicable Me 3, but the film nevertheless is set in a world where good triumphs over evil and the traditional family is celebrated. Gru and Lucy are (mostly) fine examples of a loving father and mother.   

Family-Friendly?

It’s difficult to find an animated movie that doesn’t have scatological humor. This one even boasts a flatulence joke before the movie starts (thanks to the Minions). Still, the low-brow humor doesn’t dominate the film, and the story’s positive traits—and wonderful ending—made me glad I took my 9-year-old son. It is mostly family-friendly.    

Movie Partners

McDonald’s and Kellogg’s are two of the leading companies partnering with Despicable Me 3.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

I was skeptical about Despicable Me 3. Were we getting another film where the bad guys are being cheered? The answer: no, at least not if you wait until the end. 

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures know how to pull parents into a film, especially ones, like me, who grew up in the 1980s. The formula goes like this: Play lots of 80s songs. Show lots of 80s fads. And have a goofy character (Bratt) portraying all of it. I laughed a lot in Despicable Me 3. Thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe a time in your life when you faced peer pressure or had to choose between good and evil.

2. List a few tips for avoiding/resisting temptation and peer pressure.

3. Why do you think Gru – despite his evil past – loves his three daughters so much?

4. What were Gru’s motives during the last half of the film? Did they change as the movie progressed?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Despicable Me 3 is rated PG for action and rude humor.