Illumination’s gibberish-babbling, Twinkie-shaped henchmen return in a brainless CGI sequel meant for young children. Minions: The Rise of Gru will lower adult IQ points in a seventies themed origin story that struggles mightily to fill ninety minutes. Big action sequences are sprinkled around a slim narrative that introduces the primary Despicable Me characters. I chuckled a few times as the indecipherable Minions, bombastic new supervillains, and a nascent Gru (Steve Carell) battle over a powerful artifact. More often than not I was hideously bored by a franchise that’s completely run out of creative steam.
The film opens in 1975 with an eleven and three quarters Gru (Carell) dreaming of becoming a supervillain. He idolizes Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the butt-kicking geezer leader of the Vicious Six. Gru doesn’t know that Wild Knuckles has been ousted by Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) after the group stole the legendary Zodiac Stone medallion. Gru is ecstatic to receive an interview to join the Vicious Six. He appreciates the Minions building his first evil lair but feels they may be holding him back.
The Vicious Six laugh themselves silly when Gru shows up. He’s just a kid. Their tune changes when Gru snatches the Zodiac Stone. A chase ensues with Gru and his loyal Minions rocketing through the city streets. Gru gives the rotund Otto (Pierre Coffin) the medallion to hide; which he promptly loses. Gru’s anger turns to hero worship when he’s kidnapped by Wild Knuckles. Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (all voiced by Coffin) must find the Zodiac Stone then travel to San Francisco to rescue their beloved leader.
A Flimsy Plot
Minions: The Rise of Gru tries to make up for its flimsy plot by milking seventies pop culture. Jaws, Afros, Tupperware, pet rocks, and of course, Kung Fu, take center stage on the Minions quest. The film is also loaded with the decade’s toe-tapping musical hits from Black Magic Woman to Funkytown. The grooviness and visual cues distract to a point; then becomes filler material for a script with zero substance.
I will give the animators credit for a solid action spectacle. You can see where the blockbuster budget was spent; apart from Steve Carell’s salary and the musical rights. The Vicious Six, Wild Knuckles, and Gru create mayhem with their eye-popping gadgets. The grown up baddies duke it out in cartoonish brawls. The Minions join the fisticuffs after a crash course under the tutelage of Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh). The Chinatown climax looks impressive.
Illumination Needs a Fresh Perspective
The Minions are akin to a piece of gum that’s losing flavor. It still looks bright, yellow, and appealing but has been chewed to rubber. The previous films had endearing qualities. They were silly and humorous with a healthy dose of heart. The latest iteration is pure fluff. It ekes out a few giggles over a strained runtime. Minions: The Rise of Gru is solely meant for a kindergarten audience. I have no doubt it will slay the summer box office and spawn further sequels. Illumination needs a fresh perspective with these characters and the franchise.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is produced by Illumination. It will have a theatrical release on July 1st from Universal Pictures.