Directed by: Kyle Balda and Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val
Premise: A follow up to 2015’s Minions and a prequel to Despicable Me. Teenage Gru (voice of Steve Carell) comes into possession of a magical amulet desired by various supervillains. When Gru is kidnapped it’s up to the Minions to save him.
What Works: Minions: The Rise of Gru is split between the misadventures of the little yellow troublemakers and an origin story of aspiring supervillain Gru. The film is strongest when it is focused on the Minions. At its best, Minions: The Rise of Gru recalls the Muppet movies and television shows of the 1970s and early 80s. It has the same kind of delightful comic anarchy and The Rise of Gru is the most consistently funny of the movies in this franchise. This story is set in the 1970s and the filmmakers have a feel for its time. References to media, fashions, and fads of the 1970s are worked into the movie without being obnoxious and give The Rise of Gru a distinct flavor among the other entries in the franchise. The Gru portion of the movie is not as good as that of the Minions but it is better than either of the Despicable Me sequels. Gru meets his idol and the story achieves some moments of emotional resonance that recalls Gru’s relationship with the girls in the original film.
What Doesn’t: The plotting of Minions: The Rise of Gru makes very little sense. Gru is kidnapped by a supervillain and three of the Minions journey to save him. But halfway through the film Gru and his kidnapper become allies and so there is no urgency for the Minions to get to him. The story diverts into a tangent in which the Minions learn martial arts from an Asian acupuncturist (voice of Michelle Yeoh). This sequence and many others come across as padding to fill out the running time even though The Rise of Gru only runs eighty-seven minutes. As a prequel, The Rise of Gru does not transition into the original Despicable Me very well. That film introduced Gru as a full-fledged villain who is reformed by his relationship with the girls. The Gru of this prequel isn’t the malevolent character seen in the original film. He’s much softer, resembling the reformed Gru of the sequels, and the filmmakers miss opportunities to do something a little meaner or more interesting with him. That flaw characterizes the movie as a whole. The Rise of Gru is likable but safe and unchallenging and doesn’t aspire to expand this franchise or its characters.
Bottom Line: Minions: The Rise of Gru is the best film in this series since the original Despicable Me. That’s not saying much since the other films weren’t very good. But The Rise of Gru is consistently funny and enjoyable lightweight entertainment.
Episode: #909 (July 10, 2022)