If the sight of Gru grooving to the Bee Gees grinds your gears, you’re not alone.
Youtuber Karsten Runquist has a few issues with the “dance party ending,” the trope whereby a film’s cast gather for a final fiesta before the credits roll. In a video, he suggests that these tend to work better in live action. “Animation, on the other hand — oh god.”
While noting that Toy Story 2 ended with a party of sorts, Runquist traces the popularity of the device (in animation) back to Shrek, with its all-singing, all-boogeying finale. He also holds this scene as the gold standard, to which other such endings tend to pale in comparison.
The video suggests a few criteria for a good dance party endings. In Shrek, the scene follows from the narrative: it is the wedding of Shrek and Fiona, the natural culmination of their romance. But many other films tack their party on. The climactic Shakira gig in Zootopia “feels separate from the film itself,” says Runquist. “You’re limiting [the characters’] realistic elements to these lifeless, half-dancey movements that feel awkward and uncomfortable.”
The song should also fit the tone of the film. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, the family gets down to The Bobby Fuller Four’s 1965 single “Let Her Dance” — a suitably retro choice. But the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” doesn’t quite suit Despicable Me: “It doesn’t feel like any thought went into choosing these songs. They’re like the first result when you think of ‘classic dance songs.’”
Lastly, it helps if the scene is conceptually fun or inventive. Take Blue Sky’s Robots: “You can’t cringe watching a bunch of cg-animated robots dance to ‘Get Up Offa That Thing.’ It’s just a good time.” As a bonus, the film sets the song up with a pun: “It’s a fusion of jazz and funk. It’s called ‘junk.’’”
If the dance party ending ticks at least some of these boxes, it can work. Otherwise, says Runquist, it’s there “simply to make the audience feel something the movie itself couldn’t give them.”