"Minions: The Rise of Gru" stars Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, and Alan Arkin. Releasing on July 1, 2022, the film follows the early misadventures of the Minions and their leader, Felonious Gru.
The film is directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, and Jonathan del Val, and it is a sequel to the 2015 film "Minions", which Balda also directed. It is also a spin-off/prequel to the "Despicable Me" film series. It isn't summer vacation without a bunch of yellow, banana-loving creatures running around. That's right, even with the pandemic, no one can escape the wrath of the adorable yet sometimes annoying minions. Since the release of Illumination's first feature, "Despicable Me", in 2010, the minions have gradually become an unexpectedly popular trend. They not only became the face of the French animation company but also appeared on many merchandises and a bunch of internet memes. Additionally, their popularity resulted in them appearing as the main characters in the 2015 spin-off/prequel. Seriously, those things are everywhere. Whichever way you take, you'll always see a minion appearing right in front of your face. While the kids still can't get enough of those rascally creatures, many of us adults either get irritated by their voices and slapstick or grew out of their charm. Unfortunately for the latter, Illumination still didn't take the hint, with the studio continuing to milk the franchise dry with a follow-up to their financially successful minion-centered installment. 2015's "Minions" is the type of film you either love or hate depending on your tolerance towards the yellow, goggle-wearing creatures. I thought it was a fun spin-off that may not be as great as "Despicable Me", but it offered enough moments in its slapstick and basic plot to make it a tolerable watch. So now we have a follow-up with the gullible minions serving their master Gru in his early years before his criminal life is changed by three orphan girls. Was it another enjoyable installment in Universal's despicable animated franchise, or was it another cash grab destined to irritate us even more? Let's find out.
The story takes place in the 1970s, a few years after the first "Minions" movie. The minions (Coffin), led by Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto, have finally found their new boss. Their master is Gru (Carell), a young boy in the suburbs who dreams of becoming the world's greatest supervillain. He hopes to become evil enough to join a team of supervillains known as the Vicious 6, led by Belle Bottom (Henson). When The Vicious 6 banned their former leader Wild Knuckles (Arkin), Gru saw this as an opportunity to make his dream come true. Unfortunately, his failed interview resulted in Gru and the minions stealing a powerful relic known as the Zodiac Stone right from under their noses. After Wild Knuckles captures Gru and holds him hostage, Kevin and his friends go on a quest to San Francisco to rescue him. Along the way, they receive help from a kung fu fighter named Master Chow (Yeoh) and attempt to prevent the stone from falling into the hands of the Vicious 6.
"Minions" allowed the little yellow goofballs to carry their own movie with their slapstick antics while trying to find their new boss. While it can be a bit more annoying than their roles in the main films, the spin-off maintained the fun and goofy tone the franchise is known for. "The Rise of Gru" once again puts the minions back in the spotlight. More importantly, it hearkens back to the franchise's original roots, with Gru competing against the other villains to be the best of the best, or in this case, the worst of the worst. I loved the first "Despicable Me" movie because of its clever representation of supervillains and its mixture of humor and heart. So the direction in "Rise of Gru" should be able to get the series back on track following its recent "Despicable Me" installment. Unfortunately, despite some of the things I'd come to expect from a "Minions" movie, it wound up leaving the franchise in a troubling situation regarding its quality. At least, in my eyes. While it may entertain the younger crowd with its goofy and fast-paced scenarios, the movie may also put non-followers in a foul mood with those situations.
Unsurprisingly, the movie's plot is pretty basic, like the previous installments. It explores the early relationship between the young Gru and his crowd of minions, with the former attempting to get into the big leagues despite his diminutive height. However, his mission puts the loyalty between the two into question since the minions aren't in the same leagues as the dangerous criminals. This leads the titular creatures on a journey to San Francisco to prove their worth and save the only master they have. At one point, the story offers a few mildly fun moments that warrant its short runtime and a suitable message that showcases it's more fun to do things with friends rather than yourself. Sadly, those elements didn't last as long as they should, as they get constantly bombarded by its predictable screenplay and below-average side characters.
The main reason for its predictability is how Universal spoiled the entire film in a single trailer, including the final act. I seriously want to know what was going through the marketing team's minds when they decided to release a trailer like that. Do they want us to watch their movie or not? Then again, Illumination is known for delivering simplistic family-friendly fare, so I can't complain too much. However, in cases like this, simplistic doesn't always mean good.
Admittedly, it's fun to see the minions do plenty of idiotic stuff, especially when they're with Gru in the first act. But after a while, it gradually became a bit tiring, as the film focused too much on its Looney Tunes-esque comedy instead of combining it with the franchise's heartfelt narrative. While its shorter runtime sounds like a saving grace compared to the first "Minions" movie, it's also the film's unfortunate disadvantage as its swift pacing didn't give itself enough room to embrace the characters and its 1970s environments to their full potential. It felt way too scattershot for its own good despite a couple of chuckle-worthy moments, and its heart was severely nonexistent compared to the previous installments. It's nothing more than a series of minion-centered gags designed only as a babysitter for young kids and nothing else.
Luckily, the movie also provided a few more elements that made it tolerable for me. One of them is the voice cast, with Steve Carell and Pierre Coffin being the only members reprising their roles as Gru and the minions. Carell did pretty well in delivering a much younger voice for Gru during his brief appearance at the end of "Minions", so it was interesting for me to see if he could maintain that impersonation for more than five minutes in "Rise of Gru". Despite some solid voice work from Carell, I still prefer him voicing the older Gru from the main installments since it's a tad less obnoxious than his interpretation of the young Gru. Pierre Coffin also did a fantastic job expressing his distinctive vocals as the minions, mainly Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto. Taraji P. Henson serves as the film's main antagonist, and the best way I can say about her is that if you enjoyed her in her other movies, you'd also like her in this film. Henson joins alongside Jason Segel (Vector), Benjamin Bratt (El Macho), Sandra Bullock (Scarlet Overkill), and Trey Parker (Balthazar Bratt) in a list of actors that delivered plenty of energetic fun in their "Despicable Me" antagonists. Michelle Yeoh and Alan Arkin were also good in their roles as Master Chow and Wild Knuckles, respectively. Is it time for me to say that Yeoh is having a great year so far regarding her roles?
The animation in the "Despicable Me" franchise never fails in expressing its vibrancy and cartoonish movements in its locations, physical comedy, and action sequences. Whether their stories are enjoyable or not, their style usually succeeds in capturing the feeling of watching specific classic cartoons like the Looney Tunes. Unsurprisingly, "The Rise of Gru" is no exception. The movie used its animation wisely in representing its 1970s vibe, the slapstick, and action scenes. By the way, the action in "Rise of Gru" is a tad more intense than its predecessors, so keep that in mind when taking your kids.
Overall, "Minions: The Rise of Gru" falls from grace rather than rises above its animated competitors. Even though it had several moments that I'd normally expect from a movie about Gru's scatterbrained henchmen, the film shows that too much of a good thing is a bigger crime than stealing the moon. You know, because that's what happened in the first "Despicable Me" movie. Its voice cast, animation, and so-so humor have enough merits to make itself tolerable. Nevertheless, its mediocre plot, pacing, and average characters made this latest sequel the new low point of the franchise and the most pointless cash grab that Illumination has to offer. Like "Minions", "The Rise of Gru" will strongly depend on your tolerance towards the famous yellow goggle-wearing beings. If you still don't mind them as much as the younger kids, you might get some enjoyment out of this latest follow-up. However, if you're one of the people who've already grown tired of them or just despise them with a passion, this movie won't change your mind about them. Instead, save your money for either "Paws of Fury" or "League of Superpets" or both if you're feeling lucky.