Annecy: ‘Despicable Me 4’ Plays Like Gangbusters in Animation Fest Debut

Never count a good minion out.

“Despicable Me 4,” which, like every earlier installment in the franchise, premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, made a splash. The latest entry in the obscenely popular series brought a joyous, almost concert-like energy when it screened on Thursday night. There were some lines of dialogue in the final sequence that you couldn’t properly here, not because there was something wrong with the audio, but because the audience, high on the goofy, fizzy humor, was clapping along to music in the scene

The sequel once again follows reformed supervillain Gru (franchise stalwart Steve Carell) and his lovable family, now including his baby boy Gru Jr., this time stalked by a former nemesis vowing revenge. The film lacks the technological and storytelling sophistication of other movies that have screened at Annecy, but there’s something admirable in its bright, bouncy animation style and its commitment, at all costs, to simple, gag-based laughs. (Will Ferrell plays the aforementioned nemesis, Maxime Le Mal, who is, for some reason, a grotesque half-cockroach Frenchman.)

During the Annecy screening, the audience was very much along for the ride, with consistent laughter throughout and scattered applause, leading up to that deafening moment towards the end. Much of the enthusiasm has to do with the fact that “Despicable Me 4,” like all Illumination productions, was animated in France, at Illumination Studios Paris (formerly Illumination MacGuff). In 2016 the studio had 850 employees, who work to create Illumination’s animated features on time and under budget (unlike some other animation studios, Illumination’s are known for their tightly controlled costs).

When director Chris Renaud and co-director Patrick Delage, a French filmmaker making his directorial debut, introduced the movie, they shouted out a number of their Illumination Paris colleagues who had helped to bring “Despicable Me 4” to life – all of whom were in the audience.

But those Illumination-approved audience members can only account for some of the excitement in the crowd at Annecy. Everything else can be attributed to the rest of the audience – students, filmmakers, executives, press and everything in between – who clearly had a great time.

The characters are pretty much the same as they’ve always been and the new situations and characters are perfectly keeping within that world. Several of the minions get superpowers. One has laser vision and at one point the laser gets away from him and he burns a whole in the earth. It comes out the other side melting an Eskimo’s igloo. The crowd went wild.

There has been much made about the expectations placed upon Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2.” That it has to rescue the box office from the doldrums it has been facing, marked by disappointments like “The Fall Guy” and “Furiosa,” terrific movies that few came out to see. The Pixar sequel could be the first $100 million box office opening in 11 months, buoyed by the fact that Disney has been putting all of its marketing might behind the movie. (It has also, crucially, afforded it a 100-day theatrical window, something that is unheard of in this day and age.)

But in the event that “Inside Out 2” isn’t the blockbuster that Hollywood is expecting it to be, it’s very clear (judging by the response at Annecy) that there’s another box office extravaganza waiting in the wings. And its name is “Despicable Me 4.”

“Despicable Me 4” opens exclusively in theaters on July 3.

The post Annecy: ‘Despicable Me 4’ Plays Like Gangbusters in Animation Fest Debut appeared first on TheWrap.