The three Despicable Me movies were all big hits. Those little yellow sidekicks stole the show, so they got their own prequel spinoff, Minions, that ended with them meeting eventual master Gru. Now comes Minions: The Rise of Gru, a sequel to that prequel that prominently features the Steve Carrell-voiced character, yet is not a formal Despicable Me follow-up. This franchise is getting complicated. Regardless, the film has plenty of the comic mayhem that has made the Minions incredibly popular.
Set in the 1970s, Gru is an 11-year old boy with dreams of becoming a supervillain. His youthful evil takes the form of acts like eating an ice cream cone outside the window of a gym where people are trying to lose weight. He applies to join a league of supervillains known as the Vicious 6, led by the Pam Grier-esque Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson). The group rejects him, so he steals a valuable artifact from them. As they pursue Gru to get it back, a villain named Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) – who was ousted from his leadership role in the Vicious 6 – kidnaps him as part of a revenge plot. Minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) launch a rescue mission. A martial arts expert, Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), trains them for battle, not that they have the capacity to perfect her techniques.
The story in Minions: The Rise of Gru is thin. It exists mostly as a way to put the Minions in a series of wacky situations. They disguise themselves as pilots and fly an airplane. They practice Kung Fu moves. They dress up in '70s era hippie clothes to avoid detection. The movie builds to a big fight between them and the Vicious 6, wherein they're turned into bunnies, chickens, and other cute-and-cuddly animals. Because the characters speak in gibberish, giving any of them a personal arc like Gru had in the original Despicable Me is virtually impossible. Antics are really the only thing on the table. Fortunately, those antics are significantly funny to keep the film entertaining.
Clever non-Minion jokes are scattered throughout, including a nunchuck-wielding nun appropriately named Nun-Chuck and a gun that shoots out a giant sticky rubber hand. The new characters are welcome additions to this world, although much more could have been done with Belle Bottom. A lot of untapped potential lies in her. Animation in the movie is excellent, with action scenes cleverly staged and comedic sequences suitably silly. The airplane sequence is particularly hilarious, as the Minions get that plane to do things that planes aren't supposed to be able to do.
End credits begin to roll at the 80-minute mark, making Minions: The Rise of Gru on the short side. More development of the story and the Vicious 6 members could have filled up another ten minutes and strengthened the picture as a whole. We go to Minions movies for Minions, though, and we get them here. The lovably goofy henchmen have lost none of their appeal, and even have one or two new tricks in their overalls. The math is pretty simple. If you like the Minions, you'll probably laugh enough to enjoy yourself. I like the Minions. I laughed. Spending an hour-and-a-half with them is a nice way to kick back and have a good time.
out of four
Minions: The Rise of Gru is rated PG for some action/violence and rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.