Mega-Minions and More: Despicable Me 4 (2024) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures 

The fourth main film in Illumination and Universal’s Despicable Me franchise is an entertaining follow-up to the other films, featuring the lovable former villain-turned Anti-Villain League agent FeloniusGru (Steve Carell) and family, including the effervescent Minions and Gru and Lucy’s (Kristen Wigg) new baby son. When a rival from Gru’s old villainy school, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) escapes prison and swears revenge on him for a wrong committed when they were pupils together, Gru and his family must be placed in the AVL’s relocation program and assume new identities in a quaint suburban community. Meanwhile, the AVL endow five Minions with superpowers to help them maintain order.

 The new ‘mega-Minions’ and their antics make for some truly fun slapstick, but the action and chase scenes are what really make this film an amusing ride. There’s enough squash-and-stretch chaos to bring out a lot of laughs. As a villain, Le Mal – who has transformed himself into a cockroach man and uses the tiny bugs as henchmen – is so focused on Gru, though, that he fails to be a high-stakes threat, and the movie treats him as almost an afterthought while it tries to balance a lot of false starts in story. A lot more could have been done with such a fantastic villain character; Le Mal feels underused and underdeveloped, and so much is wrapped up in so little time that his role as a catalyst for the plot also feels like an afterthought.
There are scenes which are truly fun, and seem as though they’ll be important later, but they never pick back up, making them feel unnecessary. Unlike the first two films in the series, there isn’t really a sense of heart here, either – instead of really homing in on the family as its members try to deal with their new roles and their new home, it uses the neighbors as a source of comedy and exaggeration. Gru’s attempts to bond with baby Gru, Junior are played seriously, but they feel tacked on, as if this too was an addendum to bring in a little sentiment.
As a result, while it’s an enjoyable return to the Gru family capers, and the characters are just as weird and wonderful as they always have been, something feels lacking in the narrative. It feels as though these characters have been taken as far as they can; there are no real lessons or life changes that stick. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with pure entertainment, but one finds oneself hoping for a little more from this franchise than just a string of humorous slapstick scenes that feel like setups to punchlines that never quite arrive. 
For a diversion, Despicable Me 4 is pleasant enough, and it is enjoyable to see these characters once again – but unfortunately, there isn’t much more to it than that. It feels like a good place to end the series, to keep it from becoming stale. While it is great to see beloved characters continue on in fun stories, it may be time for Illumination to light up something new.

—Dana Culling