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Despicable Me 4 (Christian Movie Review) 

About the Film 

When the loveable, overalls-wearing, yellow minions burst onto the scene in 2010, Illumination Studios quickly realized they had stumbled upon a cheat code for attracting family audiences to the movie theater. After three Despicable Me films, two spin-off Minions movies, and even a Universal Studios theme park, Gru and his gang are back in action. Despite feeling more like a series of gags than a cohesive story, Despicable Me 4 offers enough high-energy action and slapstick humor to keep young audiences entertained.   

By now, you know the drill. Introduce a supervillain, sprinkle in a few moments of heartfelt drama between Gru and his family, bombard audiences with as many minion escapades as possible, and you’ve got yourself a new Despicable Me movie. The fourth film doesn’t stray from that template. Rather than a singular narrative, Despicable Me 4 is comprised of a loosely connected series of episodic hijinks and subplots. It feels as if the filmmakers had a lengthy brainstorming session of potential sequel ideas and then used all of them.   

The story bounces between four primary subplots: 1) Gru and his family go undercover and are forced to blend in with their pompous neighbors in a new community, 2) a wannabe teenage villain blackmails Gru to pull off a heist at his childhood “school for villainy,” 3) a supervillain with a grudge against Gru has an evil idea to turn people into human-cockroach hybrids, 4) the Mega Minions—superpowered, Avenger-like minions—begin their disastrous career as vigilantes.   

There’s a lot going on. Many of the isolated adventures don’t progress the overall narrative (if there even is one), but the film is consistently entertaining and humorous. Animated films like Inside Out 2 resonate with audiences of all ages by probing the depths of human experience. Despicable Me 4 is content to make kids laugh by stuffing a minion into a vending machine.  

What prevent these films from devolving into just a sugar rush are the endearing characters and the occasional heartfelt moment. Gru and his quirky family—now featuring a newborn baby—are likeable and fun to watch. The positive theme of family serves as the film’s unifying thread.   

Another element that has remained consistent throughout the series is the tone. The Despicable Me/Minions films have always had a somewhat “rude” sense of humor. Once again, there is bountiful “potty humor” and sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek quips. But though the tone may have some rough edges and juvenile tendencies, it rarely pushes into concerning territory. Yes, there are a few mean-spirited words (“idiot, stupid, loser, etc.”) but no profanities. There aren’t any references to sexuality either. I’m not sure “wholesome” is the best word to describe these films, but Despicable Me 4 is relatively clean and unproblematic. My 9-year-old twin boys joined me for my screening, and there were no moments that made me groan or hold my breath as a parent.         

An argument could be made that each film has gotten weaker and that the minion antics are intended to distract from the fact that the filmmakers are out of ideas. That might be true—but it may not really matter. Minions are the secret sauce that makes this franchise enjoyable, and they remain as irresistible now as they were 14 years ago. Despicable Me 4 is not a great film, but it will make kids laugh. Sometimes that’s all a movie needs to do.   

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Family      

Despicable Me films are not known for exploring deep themes, and Despicable Me 4 is no different. In fact, beneath the surface of the brisk plot and slapstick humor, it’s difficult to discern any fully developed thematic threads or messages. If there is any thematic cohesion, it’s the film’s positive view of the family unit.    

In many ways, the importance of family has been the message at the center of all the Despicable Me movies. Beneath his grumpy exterior, Gru has a heart of gold and clearly cares for his family: his wife, his son and adopted daughters, and the minions to whom he is a father figure.   

The challenge for Gru’s family this time is to put their collective well-being above their personal interests, even when doing so requires sacrifice. Forced to move to a safe house and go undercover, each member of the family must give up many treasured possessions and venture into the unknown. There are several uplifting moments when characters encourage each other and help each other along the way. 

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