Despicable Me 4: Still Ba-Na-Nas

Love them or hate them, Gru and his banana-chomping Minions are back.

After over a decade, the Despicable Me franchise continues to embrace its ridiculousness with increasing enthusiasm. By now, Illumination knows what works for them. Unbridled wackiness and the occasional bum or poop joke are common ammunition in their canon. This is a world where the Minions can essentially become the Fantastic Four (or… Five) and Gru can face off against a man who has morphed into a cockroach-hybrid but no one bats an eyelash. It’s fun and fiery entertainment that can be genuinely funny – but don’t necessarily expect the emotional depth of Inside Out 2.

(from left) Maxime (Will Ferrell) and Gru (Steve Carell) in Despicable Me 4, directed by Chris Renaud.

In Despicable Me 4, Gru (Steve Carell), Lucy (Kristen Wiig) and the girls are thrilled to welcome a new baby into the family in the form of Gru Jr. The little one adores his family—except his doting dad, who is determined to win his affection. But when Gru’s old schoolmate Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) re-enters his life with revenge on his mind, the Gru family are forced to go on the run. As they adjust to their new surroundings, Gru and his crew must keep a low profile in order to

Minions (Pierre Coffin) in Despicable Me 4, directed by Chris Renaud.

At this point in the franchise, each entry into the world of Despicable Me simply feels like the next ‘episode’. Not unlike the MCU, the Minion-verse (if you will) is now on its sixth film with no signs of slowing down. (In fact, Carell himself has even joked about Illumination’s plan to keep the films going over the next 60 years.) Bounding around the screen with the madness of classic Chuck Jones animated fare, Gru and the Minions continue to bend the rules of reality with their own unique blend of comedic gibberish and constant insanity.

Even so, underneath its silliness, Despicable Me 4 remains kind of adorable. With Gru having fully embraced fatherhood and (to a lesser extent) heroism, the Despicable family seem to have found a balance between love and mayhem. Their lives may be in danger—but their relationships aren’t. Gru and Lucy have a solid marriage. Their love for the girls never waivers. Even the addition of Gru Jr. simply adds to their dynamic.

Minions (Pierre Coffin) in Despicable Me 4, directed by Chris Renaud.

For Gru and the Minions, logic may be out the window but family remains.

For this reason, while the Minions remain the most marketable sidekicks on the planet, it’s Gru that ultimately keeps the series grounded. Carell’s affability provides a stabilizing force that keeps them feeling surprisingly authentic at times. Without Carell, the series immediately feels like it loses something. (This was most noticeable during the solo Minions film where the little yellow men ran wild.) Without Gru, the films have less direction and heart, highlighting the emptiness of its brash comedy. 

Gru (Steve Carell) in Despicable Me 4, directed by Chris Renaud.

Will Despicable Me 4 win new fans to the franchise? It’s unlikely. If Gru and his little yellow pals haven’t won you over by now, the fourth entry offers nothing particularly new to draw you in. But this franchise still has a certain charm to it that I find appealing. Gru’s redemptive arc over the course of the series keeps drawing me back in, even if the Minions remain strictly ba-na-nas.

Despicable Me 4 is available in theatres on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024. 

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