Despicable Me Minions: The Rise of Gru

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Minions: The Rise of Gru
dir Kyle Balda
scr Brian Lynch, Matthew Fogel
prd Christopher Meledandri, Chris Renaud, Janet Healy
voices Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Michelle Yeoh, Taraji P Henson, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Lucy Lawless, Danny Trejo, Steve Coogan, Jimmy O Yang, RZA, Will Arnett
release US/UK 1.Jul.22
22/US Universal 1h28

carell arkin yeoh
See also:
Minions 2015 Despicable Me 3 2017

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Minions: The Rise of Gru
This fractured franchise returns to its prequel strand for wildly ridiculous adventures featuring a preteen Gru and his adorable yellow sidekicks. There's a gentle lesson about camaraderie woven in here, although the plot is so splintered that its strands never quite gain much narrative traction. But then, these movies exist to make us laugh, and this one manages that with a blinding flow of hilariously silly gags.
It's 1976, and 11-year-old Gru (Carell) is desperate to join the Vicious Six supervillain team, now that his idol Wild Knuckles (Arkin) has "retired". But Gru's minions (all voiced by Coffin) ignore his decision to go it alone. Dismissed as a kid by Vicious Six leader Belle Bottom (Henson), Gru steals a powerful stone they plan to deploy on Chinese New Year. So now the villains and Wild Knuckles are all after him. Meanwhile, minion Otto needs to retrieve the stone, while Kevin, Stuart and Bob pause to learn kung fu from Master Chow (Yeoh).
Frantic action takes place in each of these story threads, which rocket along at full-speed, rarely allowing us to grab hold of any deeper details. This means that the rapid-fire jokes and references are enjoyably thrown away, although we'd like to see more of the four sidelined Vicious Six: Jean Clawed (Van Damme), Svengeance (Lundgren), Nunchuk (Lawless) and Stronghold (Trejo). Aside from the genius casting, they each look full of promise that's never quite realised. But there are riotously funny moments from start to the very end.

At the centre, Carell continues to voice Gru as a likeable outcast whose yearning to be despicable is almost sympathetic. And this time he's a likeably nerdy tween far beyond his years. That he's kidnapped and tortured twice here might worry younger audience members, even if the threat is mild. Alongside him, Coffin's minions are as delightful as always, keeping us smiling with their mischievous exuberance. They're already so loveable that the overused cute-eye sight-gag feels rather cheap.

Director Balda has a lot of fun with the disco era, including a wonderfully eclectic song score, while period references cover pretty much everything imaginable. But even these often feel unfocussed, and sometimes downright underused. So while this is hugely entertaining to watch, it never feels like it's coming together in a coherent or meaningful way. We perhaps won't mind while we're giggling this much, but it leaves us feeling oddly empty in the end.

cert u themes, violence 26.Jun.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall