Review: 'Despicable Me 4' is a great family trip to the movies

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) star in "Despicable Me 4." It opened in theaters Wednesday.

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) star in "Despicable Me 4." It opened in theaters Wednesday. (Illumination/Universal Pictures via CNN)


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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

There are three types of animated family films, for me. The first are those that make me want to throw myself out of a window when they're playing. Sorry if this offends you, but I've got to be me, and "Cars 2" is undoubtedly one of those movies.

I don't care if my kids like it; if "Cars 2" is on, I'd rather schedule a colonoscopy than sit through it again.

The second type is a movie I enjoy so much, I can watch it without my kids — a fantastic movie I enjoy with my kids, but I have no shame turning it on and watching it solo or with another adult. "Inside Out" and "Inside Out 2" fall firmly into this category.

The third type is animated movies that are fine. I'd never see them or really enjoy them if I watched them alone, but my kids are all in and when I watch one with them, I am entertained and having a good time. "Despicable Me 4" falls into this category, for me.

The movie isn't brilliant and doesn't hit the heights of the first film, but it's far better than the third and holds its own with the second.

Here are some reasons I liked "Despicable Me 4," especially seeing it with my family.

It was funny

At the end of the day, I want to laugh while watching these movies. I laughed hysterically at the first film, pretty solidly in the second, and had some chuckles here and there in the third. This new installment wasn't as funny as the first, but I was laughing out loud numerous times.

Steve Carrell is always brilliant as Gru and Will Ferrell makes for a fun new villain in Maxime. As always, we have the Minions. I think the Minions are hilarious in certain doses, and I think this movie found the right prescription.

A few scenes, especially a heist, made me laugh hard. My kids, however, laughed through most of the movie. Hearing their laughs made me lighten up and enjoy the film even more.

It got back to its roots

It was fun to see Gru's heart change in the first movie. He was a bad guy with more good in him than he realized. In the second, he was still trying to find the balance of his new life as a reformed villain. In the third movie, I felt he became boring. They tried to introduce the conflict with his brother, trying to convince him to go bad once more, but it fell flat, for me.

In the fourth movie, he isn't struggling with becoming bad again, but some things are going on that give him a taste of the villain's life and how much he enjoys it. This made for a more interesting story and a more interesting Gru. The movies are called "Despicable Me," and if he's not at least a little despicable, then what's the point?

Streamlined storylines

One of the biggest problems with the third film was each of the characters carried out its own storyline. Everyone was split up, and the storylines didn't seem to intersect, and I was certainly not engaged with several of them. Then, the storyline I did care about, we kept abandoning — it was hard to stay invested in what was playing out on-screen.

The fourth movie did away with all the different stories and focused on one major story, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience. Sure, each character has its own growth and a portion of the story, but it's a shared story. The bulk of it is focused on Gru and that's where the movie finds success. At times, it felt, the filmmakers weren't really sure what to do with the girls, but they figured it out — for the most part.

Conclusion

I wasn't enamored with "Despicable Me 4," but it's not the best of the franchise. It was a lot of fun, and my kids loved it. But I did not want to throw myself out of a window at any point, and I wasn't constantly checking my watch to see how much longer I needed to endure the movie.

The story is far from perfect, and I lost interest during some moments, but it was a fun movie and a great outing with the family. If you enjoyed the earlier franchise installments, you'll like this one. If you were like me — enjoyed the first two, and endured the third — this would be a welcome return to what made the movies fun.

"Despicable Me 4" is rated PG for action and rude humor.

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John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about.

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