Minions: The Rise of Gru won’t make you think, but it will make you smile
While most people may tout domination of the animation film industry by Disney and Pixar, doing so ignores several franchises that have shaken things up the last few decades, at least financially if not in terms of artistic legacy. Dreamworks’ Shrek and How To Train Your Dragon reliably raked in the dough. Even the Ice Age films held their own, before being gobbled up by the Mouse House.
The most surprising, however, is Illumination and the Despicable Me series from which their lovable, inescapable yellow minion mascots sprang. After four films and 15 shorts, the series is still going strong, even if its latest prequel, Minions: The Rise of Gru seems a little all over the place. It’s nothing that a quick pace and barrel full of gags can’t cover-up.
The Rise of Gru picks up after 2015’s Minions, with the short overall-wearing henchmen finding a boss to follow in pint-sized Gru (a high-pitched Steve Carrell). While the Minions follow his every beck and call, Gru is still waiting for his moment to show the world just how despicable he can be. Unbeknownst to him, it’ll come sooner than he thinks. The treacherous super-villain group The Vicious 6 has pulled off their most daring caper yet snagging the Zodiac Medallion while leaving their leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), in the dust.
Gru sets out to join the gang he admires, only to find himself in possession of the medallion. Pursued by the Vicious 6, he’s kidnapped by an unlikely captor. Witnessing Gru’s kidnapping, a minion quartet of Bob, Stuart, Kevin, and new addition Otto set off to save their “mini-boss” and potentially the world. Along the way, they steal an airplane, ride a tricycle across the desert, learn kung-fu and find a surprising strength within themselves. Also, people turn into monsters. Seriously.
As Minions: The Rise of Gru’s title (and that lengthy plot description) suggests, this movie is a bit overstuffed and feels like two films in one. The minions have a series of vignettes showing them getting one step closer to saving Gru, while Gru is tied up with Wild Knuckles. The weird part is that it largely works, due to co-writers Brian Lynch and Matt Fogel’s desire to cram as many jokes as they can into each eye-popping frame.
Another ace up The Rise of Gru‘s sleeve is a who’s who of voice talents. The Vicious 6 is headed by Taraji P. Henson as the tough Belle Bottom, backed by the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless, and Jean Claude Van Damme. Each character has a gimmicky name, like the cross-shaped nunchuck-wielding nun named Nun-chuck and the Frenchman with a Lobster claw arm named Jean-Clawed. Rza and Michelle Yeoh have small roles as well. Picking out all the voices is almost as fun as the movie itself..
The Rise of Gru is ridiculous, but this is a kids’ film after all, and one that happens to clock in at 90 minutes, including credits. Those factors help gloss over some of the goofier, lazier bits the film slips into. No one will walk out of Minions: The Rise of Gru calling it a masterpiece. But this fluffy, funny concoction will also make you laugh, without asking too much of your time. A movie that can do that and simultaneously keep the kids entertained isn’t half bad.