The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Specials

Christmas TV specials, limited series and movies are bigger than ever these days from now until the New Year, you’ll be able to find some festive yule-tide programming every night of the week. From the traditional viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, the different versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to baking shows and live music specials, we’ve got them all listed on the new Christmas TV Specials page. (Since not all of the networks list their specials early, this list will be updated throughout the coming weeks, so check back often for new additions!)

Despicable Me 3: Twice the Steve Carell, Half the Laughs

Review of the the movie "Despicable Me 3."
Gru and Dru, both voiced by Steve Carell, in Despicable Me 3. (Universal/Illumination)


When the first Despicable Me movie came out in 2010, it was brilliant. It was not based on any known property or franchise, Steve Carell hilariously voiced the evil villain Gru and surprisingly, the film had a lot of heart. The concept of an evil mastermind adopting three adorable orphans while also attending to herd of minions was unique and different.

Despicable Me 2 showed that Gru had met his match and love interest in the form of Kristen Wiig’s Lucy in 2013 and completed the family. The Minions had their own movie in 2015 proving that while they are funny in small doses, they really weren’t meant to be on the screen the whole time. Now in 2017 we have Despicable Me 3 which should be much better than it is. No longer original, this franchise’s writing has gotten lazy and feels more like a straight-to-video adaptation. But it didn’t have to be this way.

This isn’t the movie that Universal has been promoting either. The TV commercials show a scene with Lucy asking Gru, “So, you’re villains now?” and Gru stumbles saying “yes” and the Minions all get excited to get back in the game. But that doesn’t happen in this movie. In fact, Gru’s Minions quit because he refuses to be a villain.

Review of the the movie "Despicable Me 3."
Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) (Universal/Illumination)
The third installment opens on great note with Gru and his bride working together to fight crime ala Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. These two characters are so much fun to watch together and are the best parts of this movie. The two are called upon to retrieve a giant diamond from arch villain (and amazingly annoying) Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker) who never grew up. He is former child actor who played a villain on TV during the 1980s who shot bubble gum bubbles that wreaked havoc and his tagline was, “I’m a b-a-d boy.” His show was wildly popular until the actor started going through puberty and was no longer cute. Today he is still stuck in the 80s with a mullet haircut, bald spot, Hammer pants and Michael Jackson dance moves. He decided that playing a villain on TV was a lot of fun, but being one in real life was more fun. Yawn.

When Bratt gets away, Gru and Lucy lose their jobs and the Minions leave. Not finding a great way to fit the Minions into the main story, they are smartly kept to a minimum of screen time. Aside from a couple funny scenes (the yellow guys end up on stage at a talent show and break out in a song from The Pirates of Penzance and they cause some mayhem in prison slapping towel at the big, muscular guys in the shower) they don’t have a lot to do here.

Review of the the movie "Despicable Me 3."
Minions are kept to a minimum. (Universal/Illumination)
It is about this time that Gru learns that he has a twin who looks exactly like him except for the fact that he have long flowing blond hair. Dru is also voiced by Carrell and this should have been a great gimmick given that the Carell is the heart and soul of the Despicable Me movies. Some of the funniest bits of the very first movie is Gru talking in double-speak, speaking honestly and dishonestly at the same time. We get very little of that in this movie. Dru is a contrast to Gru, which is fun, but you know that they could have done so much more with this character and this "Odd Couple" relationship.

Wiig’s Lucy character is underutilized as a “new mom” as well. The intent to show a pro-family storyline is definitely in place and there a few sweet scenes with Lucy trying to connect with her newly adopted daughters and it is humorous when she mistakenly “goes all mother bear” on some poor towns folk. Sadly, most of these scenes are rushed by and so much more that could be done with this character without losing the flavor of the film.

However, with all of the film’s shortcomings, it is sure to be a hit with the younger crowd. Ironically, the screening I saw the film was filled with kids who only laughed during pratfalls and similar antics, but they all clapped when the credits rolled up on the screen. Go figure. I didn’t get the impression that their parents felt the same way. I heard one parent say to their child, “Yes, butt cheeks are funny…” referring to brief naked Minion scene. Overall, there isn’t any “agenda” or anything offensive that parents need to worry about and honestly, you could do worse.

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