'Despicable Me 4' review roundup: critics rave.

A review of the history of the "Despicable Me" series seems almost pointless at this stage. Each new installment in the series has been worse than the last, and each installment has made more money than the last.

"Despicable Me 4," the first new film in seven years (excluding the "Minions" spinoff), currently has the worst critical rating in the series' history at 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. The original "Despicable Me" was at 80%, "DM2" at 75%, and "DM3" at 58%.

Curiously, however, despite each film being more critically acclaimed than its predecessor, worldwide box office revenues have surpassed its predecessor; whether DM4 will continue this trend and surpass DM3's franchise best $1.03 billion remains to be seen, but audiences are already flocking to Rotten Tomatoes with a 90% audience score, which is high praise for the film.

Directed by Chris Renaud and co-directed by Patrick Delage, DM4 features a new nemesis, Maxime Le Mar (Will Ferrell). The plot, however, is not important. As many critics have noted, the film is loosely episodic and filled with random comedy set pieces.

It should also be noted that nearly all negative reviews focus on the lackluster script and not on the visuals, which are consistent by Illumination standards. A closer look at the critics' comments:

Kyle Smith of the Wall Street Journal lists some common criticisms of the film's script:

The essence of the glue universe is slapstick and capers, but the balance is off here. The script by Mike White (School of Rock, The White Lotus) and Ken Daurio, who co-wrote the previous three films, is all about lame physical comedy. To hide from their enemies, Gru, Lucy, and the Minions kids participate in a witness protection program where they assume false identities in an upscale neighborhood. This leads to misunderstandings with their neighbors, but they are tediously low compared to the series' usual world-changing plot, and director Chris Renaud overestimates the comic value of the Minions (voiced by Pierre Coffin) getting stuck in a vending machine for the fourth or fifth time.

Gary Goldstein of the LA Times also condemned the tedious and half-baked script:

"Despicable Me 4" should have a subtitle: "The Kitchen Sink." That's because the latest installment in Illumination's mega-hit animated franchise is packed with physical and visual gags and anything-goes action, plus a barrage of narrative dead ends, subplots, characters, and 90 minutes of eye-rolling, brain-wrenching mayhem! Because they're trying to cram it in. The film is laugh-out-loud funny, the voice acting is excellent, and the colors are flashy, but it is empty and exhausting.

Indiewire's Kate Urbrand suggested that the story would have been better off as a series:

[T]hese misadventures are beginning to dry up from a creative standpoint. At least in a cinematic sense. There are still stories to be told in the world of Felonious Grue (supervillain-turned-pure good guy), but at this point there are too many of them. Director Chris Renaud's latest film is so full of characters, stories, and kid-friendly gags that it makes a powerful, if accidental, statement that the time has come to turn "Despicable Me" and "Minions" into a TV series. Despicable Me 4 already feels like six episodes of such shows crammed into one unwieldy, disjointed, bizarre episode.

Lee Monson of the AV Club offered the most scathing opinion, arguing that the people who made the film have become creatively complacent:

It is difficult to review Despicable Me 4 with anything but a sense of exhaustion. Illumination Studios seems to have cracked the code for a successful mainstream blockbuster. With "Good Enough," even the most inattentive child can be distracted. Good Enough" will not make parents feel alienated by their children's preferences. Good Enough" is the yellow Minions bucket hat that makes you feel like a participant in the fun while the theater reacts to the cartoon slapstick with deathly silence. The Good Enough is a series of bland laughs emanating from an empty 90 minutes that you can't remember as the credits begin to roll. Good Enough is a black hole, and Despicable Me 4 is its singularity. I myself am really, really sick of "Good Enough".

Audie Henderson's review in The Boston Globe is representative of the 47% of critics who gave the film a thumbs up, but even he admits that the franchise may have run out of gas:

If you hate Minions, stay home. If you hate the Minions and have kids, you'll have to watch their movies over and over anyway... While I enjoyed "Phantom Thief's Minion Escape 4," I have to admit that it's time for the Minions to retire. However, if the world is still inhabitable in 2025, there is a good chance that "Despicable Me 5" will be produced.

Were the critics right - or do audiences know something the critics don't - if you've seen the film, please share your thoughts in the comments below.