You Won’t Believe the Crazy Twists in ‘Despicable Me 4’ – A Must-See Rollercoaster!

“Despicable Me 4” could easily be subtitled “Everything Including the Kitchen Sink,” as it’s jam-packed with a variety of physical and visual hijinks, relentless action, and a flurry of storylines, subplots, and characters designed to fill its roughly 90-minute runtime of dazzling, yet mentally exhausting chaos.

Despite a few laughs, skilled voice acting, and an array of vibrant colors, the movie largely feels hollow and tiring.

It’s uncertain whether the typical viewer — whether they’re a fan or new to the franchise — will be capable of providing a clear summary of the film’s dizzying plot, written by Ken Daurio (who has contributed to every “Despicable” film) and Mike White (“The White Lotus”). The complex storyline should not deter families from watching, but consider yourselves warned.

The plot centers around the series’ star, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a lovable yet inept villain-turned-hero with a peculiar accent, who is compelled to enter something akin to a witness protection program after clashing with his childhood adversary, the ultra-wicked Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell). Le Mal, a flashy Frenchman with an equally nefarious and extravagant girlfriend (a sadly underutilized Sofia Vergara), declares revenge on Gru and his family, necessitating protective measures. The backstory of their longstanding rivalry may be lost on younger viewers, but it doesn’t exactly constitute a life-or-death conflict. But no matter.

Gru’s boss at the Anti-Villain League (AVL), Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), who sports a head resembling a pliable eggplant, relocates Gru and his family — daring wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), also an AVL agent; their three adopted young daughters and lively baby son — to the picturesque town of Mayflower with new identities. Gru becomes a solar panel salesman known as Chet Cunningham. Lucy, devoid of any hairdressing skills, must now go by “Blanche” and work as a hairstylist (a forced narrative diversion with minimal payoff).

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They encounter new neighbors: the excessively arrogant car dealer Perry (Stephen Colbert), his high-society wife, Patsy (Chloe Fineman), and their teenage daughter, Poppy (Joey King). Poppy, an aspiring villain, quickly uncovers Gru’s true identity and coerces him into a risky theft at Gru and Le Mal’s old school, Lycée Pas Bon, a high school for villains. The outcome is another wild sequence and the stealing of an unpredictable honey badger.

Additionally, Le Mal has the ability to transform into a giant, ultra-destructive cockroach because, why not? Gru’s two youngest daughters join a karate class taught by a strangely aggressive sensei (Brad Abelson). And Gru finds himself participating in a tennis match with Perry and his country club pals, eventually demonstrating his prowess — although to no significant effect.

There’s a kidnapping (not the first in the series); a wheelchair-bound school principal whose wheelchair morphs into a type of monster truck; and a death-defying, albeit consequence-free, epic battle that feels absurdly cartoonish, even for a movie like this.

A lot more is crammed into the narrative, including the franchise’s famous Minions, those yellow, capsule-shaped little mischief-makers (all voiced by their co-creator, Pierre Coffin), who primarily serve to aid Gru. However, in this installment, they seem to be more of a chaotic distraction than a crucial plot driver.

While Coogan’s character Ramsbottom equips five of the Minions with a special serum granting them a bizarre set of superhero-like abilities, the remaining Minions are left at Gru’s house, perpetually battling a vending machine. Regardless of their role in “4,” they remain noisy, irritating, and unruly — even if the so-called Mega Minions can now clumsily lay waste to a city.

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Directed by Illumination stalwart Chris Renaud (responsible for the first two “Despicable Me” films, “The Lorax,” and both “Secret Life of Pets” movies), the film’s quick pace cannot be faulted. The movie may be draining, but it is seldom dull. (Patrick Delage is credited as co-director.)

On the music side, Heitor Pereira is back to deliver the film’s effective and occasionally diverse score. Pharrell Williams’ previous “Despicable” themes are revisited, and he wrote and performs the catchy new original song “Double Life.” There are also several enjoyable musical insertions, including an energetic, late-stage use of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

A considerable amount of skill, talent, resources, and undoubtedly, passion, goes into a film like this, which should not be disregarded. It’s just that one wishes the final product would offer a smarter, more layered evolution of the series, perhaps with a more timely, meaningful message for its family audience. Who knows, maybe “Despicable Me 5” will deliver this.

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