July 1st, 2022
MOVIE: MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU
STARRING: STEVE CARELL, ALAN ARKIN, TARAJI P. HENSON, MICHELLE YEOH, PIERRE COFFIN
DIRECTED BY: KYLE BALDA, BRAD ABLESON, JONATHAN DEL VAL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The gibberish speaking yellow pill shaped characters known as the Minions have become the McDonalds of kids animated movies. They are now the often colorful and high energy escape for children, while also being an easy option for parents to give to their kids and you know it will please. It’s not exactly “high art”. I don’t think any film critic would claim it is. And now we get the fifth installment into the Despicable Me universe and surprisingly Minions: The Rise of Gru is the best installment since the original. The energy is high in this prequel, where we meet an eleven-year old Gru (Steve Carell) and his early aspirations for super villainy. There’s also various sub-plots, most involving the Minions, three learning kung-fu to save their mini-boss, one Minion in search of a rare necklace, and Gru himself trying to survive being caught in a villain war. Keeping it all straight is not hard or significant but The Rise of Gru is a lot of predictable and wild Minion hijinx and that was enough to make me happy.
A surprising factor in directors Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, and Jonathan del Val’s movie is how it begins in 1978 with a new group of villains known as the Vicious 6. They are Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless), Svengence (Dolph Lundgren), and Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). They’re Gru’s favorite team of villains, but when they turn on leader Wild Knuckles, that leaves an open spot for Gru. The anti-hero bombs his interview- all on account that he’s just too little- Gru steals the teams coveted Zodiac necklace, putting a target on his back. It’s here where the groups split up and the plots go all over. Minions Kevin, Stewart, and Bob learn kung-fu from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh) with hopes to rescue Gru after being captured by Wild Knuckles. Portly Minion Otto is on the search for the necklace that he wrongfully traded for a pet rock; And then there’s the Vicious 6 hunting for Gru and everyone else. It’s all scattered around but there are plenty of laughs along the way.
The screenplay is written by Matthew Fogel from a story by Brian Lynch and what I’ve consistently noticed with the Minion movies is that they balance what’s for kids and adults quite well. There’s an intro remicising a James Bond movie, a Minion raid on Wild Knuckles compound ala Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, and a motorcycle trip on the open road like it’s Easy Rider. The kids won’t get it but there’s a hilarious Simpson’s like brand of humor that had me laughing a lot. I also cannot lie that the bibble babble dialogue of the Minions is quite funny. A mixture of all kinds of languages from Spanish, German, French, English, and more, all concocting into gibberish soup. If you’re not wildly annoyed by the Minions at this point, you will find The Rise of Gru to be enjoyable, if you can’t stand them, then I would stay away.
The moments that make The Rise of Gru fun are a series of set pieces. We see the trio of Minions in need of getting to San Francisco, so they pose as airplane pilots, wildly flying through sheer luck and chaos. Gru’s relationship with Knuckles changes through a villain case of Stockholm syndrome, and Otto makes a new friend on the open road. Plus, the animation itself is not as impressive as many other animated movies you would see this year, such as Turning Red, Lightyear, and The Bad Guys. All of them have done leaps and bounds more than any Minions movie could do. And still, the jet setting and wild hijinx of these movies brings more joy than expected. There’s an obvious inspiration for movies such as It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, the Blue Meanies in The Beatles Yellow Submarine, and other characters like The Smurfs.
Once again: this is not high art. Steve Carell’s voice work is quite impressive, squeezing his throat to higher pitches I didn’t think possible, creating more backstory for Gru than needed. As a whole, The Rise of Gru is barely nourishment for the audience. Yet, it still left me with a smile on my face and my son enjoyed every second of it, laughing at every “beebo” “beenut” and “popageeno”. Sometimes it’s the lowest form of entertainment that can work for the audience and Minions: The Rise of Gru is just that.
MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU IS IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY JULY 1ST, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady