We were first introduced to the Minions in 2010 as supporting characters in the animation, Despicable Me. Since then, they have become the face of Illumination Animations, starred in two more Despicable Me movies, a series of short films, countless merchandise and TV adverts, and a movie of their own. Now we get the sequel to Minions and the prequel to the first Despicable Me, in the form of Minions: The Rise of Gru. You wonder if we have been overpopulated by the yellow creatures, but thankfully, they still can make you laugh.
The Vicious Six are a gang of criminals who steal a powerful medallion. When their leader is ousted, space becomes available for a new member. Young Gru dreams of taking that spot. Yet when refused the place, he steals the medallion and hands it to his helpers, the Minions. Gru is kidnapped, so the chase is on to free him and the Vicious Six to get their stolen medallion back.
The first thing to note about this film, as with most of the Minion/Gru films, is that plot is secondary to everything else. While never having the flair of a Pixar movie, the animation is bright, colourful and easy on the eye, even if it never leaves you thinking you are watching more than a cartoon. Illumination knows what kids like, which is vibrant and reminiscent of what we wanted as kids with Hanna-Barbera. The plot seems to be there to hang a succession of cleverly placed slapstick moments involving the Minions.
Their adventures are often bizarre, always surreal, but incredibly funny. The set pieces in this new film may have the gags telegraphed way in advance, yet you still fall for the execution. A sequence in which the Minions learn Kung Fu may not seem the most original joke you have ever seen, yet you find yourself laughing like loons when the animators have put the scenes together.
Why does it work? It must be the mixture of the weird language the Minions use, a mix of gibberish and the occasional English. Still, most of all these characters embody respect for the art of slapstick and silent movies. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and even Laurel and Hardy are the influences of these characters, and it’s a joy to see they are keeping a dying art form alive. The makers are also very cine-literate, so we get nods to Jaws and The Exorcist. You get the references even if you are not laughing at the visual gags.
When you compare this series of films to, say, Ice Age, the makers here have always kept things simple. For example, there might be loads of characters thrown into the pot, but unlike in Ice Age, they don’t trip over each other for the limelight. So all we have to focus on are Gru and the Minions. Everyone else is in their world, not the other way round.
The voice talent is spot-on. This time, Steve Carell returns as Gru with a much younger voice, and he gets some delicious lines. Julie Andrews and Russell Brand return, but the fun is listening out for the guest stars. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a villain called Jean-Clawed, a baddie with a giant claw as a hand, while Dolph Lundgren is Svengeance.
Minion: The Rise of Gru has flaws and is far from perfect. Yet it’s a film that will bring a smile to the face of anyone looking for a good time, and is that a bad thing in the times we are living in now?
4 out of 5
Directors: Kyle Balda, Brad Abelson and Jonathan del Val
Starring: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless
Written by: (also story) Matthew Fogel and (story) Brian Lynch
Running Time: 87 mins
Release date: 1st July 2022