He has an army of mischief-hungry minions and a wife a ponytail shy of psychotic, but you could hardly call Gru despicable any more. These days, despite a high-flying job as a secret agent, the man who once stole the moon is just somebody’s dad. Kids, they change everything.
But then Gru’s picture of suburban bliss is shattered when a cheeky new villain outsmarts him and he (and his wife) are fired from the agency.

Down in the dumps, and one of the least suitable candidates for a blue-collar nine-to-five, Gru contemplates his place in the world, only to find out he has a twin brother.

His mother, unrepentant to a T as she cavorts in a pool with budgie-smuggling beefcakes, nonchalantly reveals that she had been lying to him all along. It’s like water off a “hunk’s back”, to her. Gru’s mother is probably deserving of her own spin-off, but the old lady’s exploits would probably be better suited to HBO.

Her son, deserted by his minions who long for the bad old days, packs the family off to a faraway land for a family reunion.

Brother Dru, on the other hand, is balling like its a Rick Ross music video. He’s a gazillionaire of sorts, and he has hair. The money isn’t making him happy though. Dru wants to leave the pig-farming bonanza, and join the family legend. He has all the toys. Gru, sensing a chance to win back his place in the agency, agrees.

Villain Balthazar Bratt is a former child star from the 1980s determined to stick it to Hollywood for cancelling his once hit show. Literally. He’s a gum-chewing retro roll call of shoulder pads, Magnum’s moustache and a killer VH1 playlist that will probably be lost on the pre-adolescents making up Team Gru. But with our hero desperately seeking his mojo, and the minions clogging up the prison system, he so nearly steals the show.

With so many character arcs to squeeze into the running time, Despicable Me 3 certainly has a job on its hands trying to give everyone enough screentime. Outside the brotherly love, there’s wife Lucy Wilde trying to come to terms with being a mother, and unicorn-obsessed little Agnes. The other two girls have little to do and Dr Nefario is probably better off frozen. Even the minions are out in the cold, most of the time.

Despite the inherent humour and quirks (Bratt’s moonwalk on water is a joy to behold), one can’t escape the feeling that the action could have been that much sharper with a clearer focus.

It matters little though, because the muscle behind Despicable Me, its young fans, were in a trance. They were pumped up before the screening I attended, their little neurons colliding after a meet-and-greet with Gru and the gang. One little boy, when asked by his mother if he was ready to go into the cinema, tilted his head back and roared “Yesss!”. I could almost feel his jugular vibrate. And then, once the movie started, the excited chatter died down and everyone was quiet.

The kind of quiet where the scrunch of your popcorn feels intrusive. That doesn’t even happen in screenings for grown-ups anymore.

So the kids are going anyway. And if they bring you, the parent, along, I suggest you sit back, enjoy the old school and let them have their moment.

@PJEKSTEEN