When I was a kid, my favorite movie was Despicable Me. It was a funny movie about a villain changing his ways in a satisfying, emotional narrative. But when Illumination saw those cute yellow sidekicks in that film and decided to give them their own spin-off franchise, the quality of these movies declined. So, seven years after their spin-off grossed over $1 billion at the box office, the Minions are back in Minions: The Rise of Gru, an animated comedy adventure set years before Despicable Me. This film features a 12-year-old Gru (Steve Carell) in his quest to join a supervillain group named the Vicious 6 with the help of his Minions.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is an acceptable, mildly enjoyable piece of entertainment that will keep children having fun for an hour and a half, but it won’t do much more than that. Hollywood has given us the rises of Skywalker, Cobra, the Machines, and the Planet of the Apes. Now, it’s Gru’s turn to rise as the new leader of this series after his cameo at the end of the original Minions. It’s fun to see Gru as a younger, more optimistic character who dreams of being a supervillain. He’s a more youthful, excitable protagonist getting used to hanging around the Minions.
Director Kyle Balda gets to have a little bit of fun with the newly updated setting. In a matter remarkably similar to The Black Phone (not really), this movie sets itself in the 1970s with music, hairstyles, and costumes that reflect that era. The film also features a classic adventure setup with a precious stone getting stolen from a temple filled with booby traps, and an opening title sequence so absurdly humorous that you would never see it coming. There is a lot about this film to enjoy, from how easily digestible it is to the sheer number of visual gags the Minions have to offer.
The sequel makes the wiser choice of spending a lot of time with the human characters, as opposed to the first film, which featured endless scenes of Minion antics. The Minions movies are not the Godzilla movies, where you want the human scenes to be over as soon as possible so you can get back to the titular creature. You can take all the Minions in the world as a child, but as an adult, endless jibber-jabbering from yellow anthropomorphic Tic-Tacs can send your blood pressure rising through the roof. This film features many human characters with the Vicious 6, a group portrayed by name actors such as Taraji P. Henson, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, and Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a villain named Jean Clawed.
Carell gets to have fun doing his Gru accent at a higher register, and Pierre Coffin gives his all to voicing the Minions. The supporting cast is excellent, including Michelle Yeoh’s mildly triumphant return to the big screen after starring in this year’s masterpiece Everything Everywhere All at Once. She plays Master Chow, a woman skilled in martial arts who trains the heroes in their journey. Of course, this is the character she has already played in films like Boss Level and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but Yeoh is good at her job and always sells it.
While kids will have an absolute blast with this film, it’s reasonable for adult audience members to want more. The potential of an emotional story exists with Gru’s relationship with his disapproving mother, Marlena (Julie Andrews). However, all the depth and childhood drama briefly explored in the original Despicable Me gets sacrificed for farts and burps. The movie never slows down or takes a moment to breathe, offering frenetic comedic timing and throwing gag after gag at the screen.
Are the gags funny? That depends on your MTL (Minion Tolerance Level). Mine is pretty average, which resulted in an experience with some of the jokes being funny and others annoying. Minions: The Rise of Gru is a breezy, 90-minute option best suited for children who have already watched superior animated films such as Lightyear and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. If this is your last option to get your child to laugh and have fun for an hour and a half, it will be a successful choice. Case in point, the 10-year-old kid I saw the film with gave the movie an 11 out of 10. Is this a testament to our younger audiences’ decreasing attention spans and lower standards? It’s hard to say, because there was once a time in my youth when I felt that positively about Despicable Me. So who am I to judge?
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 6 equates to “Decent.” It fails to reach its full potential and is a run-of-the-mill experience.
Disclosure: The critic attended a press screening for ComingSoon’s Minions: The Rise of Gru review.
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