• Nate Adams

'Minions: The Rise of Gru' review: Silly sequel isn't despicable


Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 

Hard to predict 12-years ago the “Despicable Me” franchise would birth one of the most instantly recognizable characters that didn’t come from the Disney machine, but four movies, countless merchandise tie-ins, video games and amusement park attractions later, the lovable, overall wearing, gibberish speaking Minions have cemented their pop cultural domination. Originally side characters who served the villainous Gru (Steve Carell), the scene-stealing little critters have taken the spotlight and their latest hyperactive adventure and prequel to the previous three “Despicable Me” installments: “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is bursting with Charlie Chaplin meets Marx Brothers levels of catatonic energy.


The 2015-spinoff which started this alternate franchise timeline, “Minions” didn’t sit too well with this viewer, perhaps signaling the Minions didn’t have the presence to sustain a full-length feature, but “Rise of Gru” puts them right back at the top. Maybe because the film, directed by Kyle Balda, runs a scant 87-minutes and leans into its seventies roots (it is a prequel, remember) with a hip soundtrack featuring needle drops by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, St Vincent, and Brittany Howard. Or perhaps the story, as thin and overplayed as it is, gives the Minions something worth fighting for: in this case, their young “mini boss” Gru (voiced again by Carell) who finds himself kidnapped by Alan Arkin’s Wild Knuckles, a displaced member of popular villainous group the Vicious Six.


Gru admires the Vicious Six and Wild Knuckles the way teenagers adorn Harry Styles, but he finds himself, after getting rejected to join the Six, stealing the group’s most prized artifact: the Zodiac Stone, a primary reason Knuckles kidnapped him in the first place. In turn, the entire second half of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” becomes a rescue operation with prominent Minion trio-Kevin, Stuart and Bob (voiced by Pierre Coffin) along with a brace-faced newcomer Otto, leading the charge; hilariously hijacking planes and getting taught kung-fu by Michelle Yeoh’s Master Chow.


Sure, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” hinges on a nefarious plot involving the Zodiac stone, but all anybody wants is Minion mayhem and young kiddos will certainly laugh themselves silly and parents should chuckle at some off-hand remarks (“Ok Don Rickles!”) the littles won’t understand. It’s smooth sailing and rarely drags, and once the powers of the Zodiac stone are unleashed, nothing else matters. With the cuteness factor in overdrive and poppy, punchy and vibrant animation from the folks over at Illumination, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” for better or worse, proves there’s still enough gas left in the Minion tank.


Grade: B


MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU is now playing in theaters.