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Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

It’s been a long time since Felonius Gru could’ve been described as “despicable.”

Yes sir, ever since the events of the original Despicable Me, which caused Gru to retire from villainy, he’s become quite “picable” indeed. Nowadays, Gru’s once-gloomy home bustles with life. That comes courtesy of his wife, Lucy; his three adoptive daughters, Margo, Edith and Agnes; and the newest addition to the Gru household: little Felonius Gru Jr.

But if there was someone whom that despicable adjective might suit these days, it’d be Maxime Le Mal. He was Gru’s classmate back when they both attended Lycee Pas Bon, their so-called School of Villainy.

Due to his belief that cockroaches are a “miracle of evolution,” Maxime’s transformed himself into a cockroach-human hybrid. A weird guy, to be sure, but it’s not long before Gru and the rest of the Anti-Villain League capture Maxime and put him away—though not before he utters an ominous promise to Gru:

“Mark my words!” Maxime says. “I will exterminate you.”

Tall words for a bug. But before you can say minion, Maxime breaks free from his prison, intent on exacting his revenge on Gru by stealing away his toddler and turning the boy into a mind-controlled cockroach hybrid.

The Gru household is forced to move to an AVL safehouse under a sort of witness protection program while they wait for other agents to track down and subdue the rogue villain. (Agents who now include Gru’s myriad minions, including five so-called Mega Minions who’ve essentially been given super powers.)

As for Gru’s family, each of them are given new names (such as Gru’s Chet Cunningham) and asked to take on their new AVL-approved personalities.

But Maxime, scouring the world in his search for the missing Gru family, knows it won’t be long before someone makes a mistake.

And when that happens…

Well, his name isn’t Maxime Le Bon.

Positive Elements

Gru’s family isn’t in the most ideal situation. But Gru and Lucy choose to make the best of it. Gru, who is normally reserved and glum, tries to play the role of a friendly neighborhood solar panel salesman, while Lucy plays her own part in trying to settle into the family’s new normal.

They do so because they both feel that this temporary trial is necessary in order to protect their children against Maxime. After all, the villains of the previous three films all included kidnapping Gru’s friends or family member as part of their villainous schemes, so it’s only natural to assume it may happen again.

And it’s clear from comments throughout the film that they only want the best of their children: Gru, for instance, quietly hopes to himself that the children at Margo’s new school treat her nicely. The youngest girl, Agnes, likewise worries about telling people her new assigned name, “Britany,” since Gru’s been adamant that lying is wrong. Her strong ethical concern over the matter offers further evidence that Gru and Lucy have done their best to raise the kids as upright citizens.

Gru Jr., as we quickly learn, has little affection for his father. Though Gru does everything he can to try to foster that parental relationship with his baby boy, Gru Jr. wants nothing to do with him. But despite Jr.’s near-terrorizing of Gru, this tired dad never falters in his devotion to provide for and connect with his boy, even risking his life to protect the baby. Though Gru often feels exhausted from his parental duties, he never lashes out or allows his emotions to overshadow his duty as a father.

But Gru and Lucy aren’t the only ones practicing heroics: in a subplot, the AVL takes a quintet of minions and gives them superpowers, and the five do their best to help protect the city from various dangers. And sure, everything they do has a very minion way of backfiring, but, hey, their hearts are in the right place—especially when they’re shown initially scared of the dangers of hero work.

Spiritual Elements

Maxime describes Gru Jr. as a “demon” due to the baby’s aggressive behavior. Another person describes a honey badger as a “fuzzy demon.” The muddled dialogue is difficult to discern, but someone yells something that sounds like “the wrath of hell.”

A girl at a school for villains wears red horns on her head. Likewise, an alumni award at the school appears as a golden trophy with horns and a devilish tail wielding a trident.

Maxime describes the cockroach as a “miracle of evolution.”

Sexual Content

As always in this franchise, we see a couple of bare minion backsides (played for humor). Another minion runs around in his underwear.

Gru and Lucy share a couple kisses. Following a sweet moment, a minion attempts to kiss another minion on the cheek. A woman kisses a minion on the cheek for helping save her cat. Oh, and a minion kisses a cow (as a joke, of course).

Both Gru and Maxime plan to sing “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club for a talent show, and they both wear makeup and wigs imitating Boy George. The Right Said Fred song “I’m Too Sexy” briefly plays as a car drives away. One character performs a hip thrust as part of his dance moves.

Violent Content

Much of Despicable Me’s typical slapstick violence returns, though some moments are elevated beyond slapstick. Gru (and a couple of others) find themselves in mortal peril on a couple occasions. Gru nearly falls from a lethal height.

A woman’s hair catches fire. One minion’s laser vision burns straight through the Earth to the other side and nearly takes out a number of people with it. A woman is electrocuted. And we hear a gunshot and scream offscreen (though this serious event is played as a comedic moment). A man falls from a great height and hits many objects on the way down.

One man’s toe is broken, and when he shows the audience, it flops uncomfortably onscreen. He also smashes his face into a gong. A woman crashes into a freezer door. A man is knocked unconscious. Various characters get into fistfights, and one cockroach attack leaves a cut on Gru’s cheek. Someone is tasered.

Minions are crushed under a climbing wall. A building is smoked out due to a sudden fire. Gru is hurt when a move forces him to do the splits. A honey badger attempts to shred and bite at people. Someone is trampled and stung by various animals.

Someone is shot with a laser gun which turns him into a mind-controlled cockroach hybrid.

For all of that violence, though, no one is ever really injured.

Crude or Profane Language

No overt crude language is used. However, one woman yells out “oh strudel” with a heavy German accent, and her drawn out “sh” pronunciation might sound briefly like it’s going a more profane direction. Otherwise, we hear a little bit of name calling such as “idiot,” “sourpuss” or “loser.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Gru is accidentally injected with a syringe full of sedative. Lucy and a neighbor friend have what appear to be martinis at a country club. When Lucy hears that her kids might be in danger, she quickly downs her drink and her friend’s.

Other Negative Elements

A girl blackmails Gru into helping her steal something from a school for villains, threatening to expose his true identity if he doesn’t comply. This forces Gru to spend time alone with the girl as they plan. The same girl ridicules Gru: “I don’t respect [Baby] Boomers,” she says. “I just mock them.”

Various bits of toilet humor turn up. A baby urinates onto a control panel. A goat defecates in Gru’s home, and a man is covered by bird droppings. Margo is the victim of a cruel glitter-based prank. Two minions pick on another minion.

Minions laugh at the latter part of AVL Director Ramsbottom’s name. We’re told someone was pantsed at his homecoming dance.


Let’s take a lesson from Despicable Me’s first antagonist and consider the vector of the franchise.

In terms of magnitude, the now-decade-old series has gone far in its reach. Love them or hate them, Gru’s yellow minions are a cultural phenomenon. The film’s success even spawned a ride at Universal Studios. And with at least two more planned movies on the way, the franchise shows little signs of slowing in its cultural impact.

But Plugged In primarily concerns itself with the other half of the vector coin: direction. And in that regard, Despicable Me 4 stays the course.

Like its predecessors, Despicable Me 4 keeps its plot ultimately focused on family. To the surprise of no one familiar with this franchise, the villains hope to destroy Gru’s happy little family—and Gru vows to protect it, providing audiences with a couple sweet lessons along the way about being a father, too. And while the emotional beats of this film’s family messages feel somewhat tacked on this time rather than central to its plot, when they do show up here, they remain effective.

The movie likewise stays the course regarding its prevalent content issues—namely, toilet humor gags, slapstick violence and a yellow minion rear. In fact, you’d be able to find most of the content issues written in this review in our reviews of previous franchise entries. That said, this film might have less toilet humor and mildly suggestive gags than some of its predecessors.

In summary, Despicable Me 4 isn’t a perfect film. In all honesty, the movie plays it safe with a predictable plot, goofy pratfalls and some tender moments along the way. It won’t be lauded nearly as much as Inside Out 2. But I’d wager that it also doesn’t do anything different enough to harm the trajectory of the Despicable Me vector, either.

Unless you’ve got an intense fear of cockroaches, that is.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”