In case you were keeping track, the fifth film in the Despicable Me franchise is a sequel to 2015’s Minions, which was itself a prequel to the first two films in the series. It’s a testament to Hollywood’s commitment to recycling, and certainly understandable in light of the series’ blockbuster status. Minions: The Rise of Gru gives fans more of what they’ve come to expect, mainly Gru acting evilly, the Minions acting stupidly, and enough clever gags that will fly over its target audiences’ heads but keep their adult chaperones from dozing off.
Not that sleeping would be possible, considering that this entry is the most frenetic and action-packed of the bunch. Parents may want to consider taking their tykes early in the day, since they may be so revved up after seeing it that bedtime could become contentious.
Minions: The Rise of Gru
The Bottom Line
More of the same, but still fun.
Set in 1976 California, the film is an origin story depicting how Gru (Steve Carell) became allied with the diminutive yellow creatures (all voiced hilariously by Pierre Coffin, provided, one hopes, with plenty of throat lozenges) and embarked on his career path to villainy. Only 11 years old (11 ¾, to be precise), Gru sees his chance when given the opportunity to apply to become a member of the evil supergroup the Vicious 6 after they violently oust their leader, the elderly Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin, giving the impression that he’s having a lot of fun).
Adults will get a kick out of the Vicious 6 members’ names and the voice talents behind them. The new leader is Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), while the others are the aptly named Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the nun’s habit-wearing Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless), the Swedish roller-skater Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), and the iron-handed Stronghold (Danny Trejo). Michelle Yeoh, who’s certainly on a roll these days thanks to Everything Everywhere All at Once and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings, continues her hot streak with her delightful voicing of the acupuncturist Master Chow, who tutors the Minions in martial arts.
Gru’s audition doesn’t go so well when Belle Bottom sees that he’s a child, and it gets even worse when he steals their Zodiac Stone, an ancient amulet that holds the key to world domination. He suddenly finds himself their mortal enemy and joins forces with the Minions and the revenge-seeking Knuckles to escape their clutches. Also on hand is an adorable new Minion, Otto, who amazingly proves to be even more dim-witted than his cohorts.
The filmmakers have a lot of fun with the period setting, with much of the action taking place in a groovy San Francisco. There are plenty of gags relating to 70s-era excesses, from Blaxploitation to kung-fu films to Evel Knievel to, in one of the most amusing plot developments, Pet Rocks. The opening credits are a witty homage to the ones in the Bond films, and the soundtrack features a bunch of terrific cover versions of the decade’s hits, including Phoebe Bridgers’ take on The Carpenters’ “Goodbye to Love” and St. Vincent singing “Funkytown.” The most priceless musical moment, however, is the Minions’ rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which, from now on, must really be the only version played at Trump rallies.
The film features many hilarious moments — demonstrating, along with Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers and The Bob’s Burgers Movie, that the funniest screenwriting these days seems to be for animated films. A particular highlight involves two of the Minions piloting a passenger jet, with predictably raucous results. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with this type of fare, the final act features a plethora of extended fight and chase scenes that quickly prove wearisome.
Carell, necessarily adopting a higher-pitched but still amusingly accented voice, continues to be a hoot as the devilish Gru, who somehow manages to be endearing even when behaving at his worst. And kids will continue to adore the gibberish-speaking Minions, especially when they bare their cartoon butts. But hey, they could have worse role models.