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Minions: The Rise of Gru (A Movie Review)


Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Alan Arkin, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless, Will Arnett, Steve Coogan, Michael Beattie, Jimmy O. Yang, Kevin Michael Richardson, John DiMaggio and Raymond S. Persi.

Screenplay by Matthew Fogel.

Directed by Kyle Balda.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 87 minutes. Rated PG.

I’ve somehow mostly missed the boat on the Minions phenomenon. Not completely, of course, that would be nearly impossible. However, I’m only vaguely familiar with them. I did see the first Despicable Me movie years ago, but honestly it did not leave much of an impression on me. I never saw the second or third Despicable movies (with a fourth on the way), nor the previous Minions spin off movie, or even the multiple Minions shorts like “Home Makeover,” “Banana,” “Yellow is the New Black” and “Cro Minion.” I also never caught The Minions Holiday Special which ran on TV.

However, of course I am aware of them: those walking chattering yellow capsules who wear overalls and goggles and are always getting into slapstick mischief and whose personalities seem to be made up entirely of the id. They speak their own language called “Minionese,” although it appears to just be a bastardization of several of the romance languages, such as French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and even snatches of English.

It would be hard not to be aware of them. They are nearly everywhere, from clothing to toys to theme park attractions to video games to coffee mugs to ornaments to night lights. They are in commercials – and not just for their movies, either, but for such seemingly unrelated products as Xfinity Wi-Fi and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Honestly, I’ve never really felt the need to explore them much more. They seemed kind of ridiculous to me. They are, of course, but the surprising thing is that while Minions: The Rise of Gru is not exactly a classic or anything, it was actually surprisingly amusing. Considering the fact that this is coming from an adult man who is way outside of their target audience, that’s saying something. If I kind of liked it, I’ll bet most kids will love it.

Essentially, Minions: The Rise of Gru is a prequel (as was the first Minions movie) to the Despicable Me films, as you can tell from the title it is about a younger version of super-villain Gru.

The action takes place in 1976 and The Rise of Gru has a great 1970s soundtrack. (Although as someone who was alive in the 1970s, unlike most of Gru’s audience, I have to note that at least a few of the songs used came out years after the movie is supposed to take place.) The movie is a celebration of 1970s action films – from the James Bond-inspired opening credits to the Foxy Brown-esque lead villain Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson).

The story is silly, but you don’t really expect any different from a kid’s film. Gru as an 11-year-old boy is mesmerized by a group of super bad guys called the Vicious 6. He tries to join the group, only to run afoul of the bad guys. When he is kidnapped, his minions search to find and save him.

Like I said, not much of a story. However what is there is bright and shiny and moves quickly and in general is not – like so much modern animation – kind of obnoxious. The voice talent is also spot on, particularly Steve Carell as a pre-pubescent Gru and Alan Arkin as an aging supervillain who becomes his mentor.

If you are not the target audience, you’ll probably forget The Rise of Gru within hours after you see it. But credit where it is due, the Minions world is a lot of fun while you’re there.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: September 7, 2022.


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