REVIEW: ‘Minions: The Rise Of Gru” Is A Perfunctory Prequel

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Rise of Gru- But Why Tho

Minions: The Rise of Gru returns to the world of Despicable Me – or rather the childhood of its lead villain Gru (Steve Carrell). Set in the 1970s, The Rise of Gru kicks off when Gru is invited to join the notorious band of villains known as the Vicious Six. When the Six turn him down, Gru steals the artifact known as the Zodiac Stone from their headquarters in an attempt to impress them. However, the Minion Otto (Pierre Coffin) winds up losing the Stone and Gru winds up being kidnapped by the Six’s former leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), whom he idolizes. Otto embarks on a journey to get the Stone back and save Gru alongside his fellow minions Stuart, Kevin, and Bob.

You may have guessed from the title, but this is intended to be a prequel to the Despicable Me trilogy. In theory, a movie about Gru’s path to villainy could have been an interesting story – especially with all the chaos the Minions leave in their wake. In practice, it’s more or less a series of gags held together by the flimsiest of stories. There are no less than three subplots going on: Gru and Wild Knuckles end up bonding, while Otto chases the Stone. Meanwhile, Stuart, Kevin, and Bob attempt to learn martial arts in order to rescue their “miniboss”.

It’s that last story that is the most amusing, especially as their teacher is voiced by none other than Michelle Yeoh. This is where the series makes the most of its ’70s-era setting, as there are multiple references to martial arts films including Game of Death, with the Minions donning versions of Bruce Lee’s signature yellow jumpsuit.  The Rise of Gru was one of many films delayed during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so for it to land right after Yeoh’s magnificent performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once is a stroke of fortune that works in the film’s favor. It also doesn’t hurt that Yeoh gives a very humorous performance.

I do wish the rest of the cast had followed in her footsteps. The Vicious Six is more or less a collection of puns and on-the-nose gimmicks, from its leader Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) being a shoutout to Blaxploitation heroines such as Foxy Cleopatra to Jean-Clawed (voiced by, you guessed it, Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless). To the film’s credit, these are some clever use of puns and stun casting and the Six are part of some of the film’s standout sequences, especially the final fight scene where they face off against the Minions. Other actors are woefully underused, including RZA as a biker that Otto encounters and Julie Andrews as Gru’s mother.

As for the titular supervillain himself, director Kyle Balda and screenwriter Matthew Fogel are never quite sure what to do with Gru. He more or less takes a backseat during the film’s events, with periodic check-ins. The attempts to forge a bond between Gru and Wild Knuckles also feel more or less like the film is trying to ape the dynamic from Pixar’s Up. And in the end, Gru is more or less the same character we see in the Despicable Me films – Carell, despite his best efforts, often lapses into Gru’s adult voice at times. Prequels are not a bad thing, as both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are proof of how that format can add more depth to a film franchise. But The Rise of Gru is more interested in its banana-shaped, gibberish-sprouting mascots’ adventures than showing how Gru came to be a supervillain. True, Coffin manages to give each Minion their own distinct personality, but this film is emblematic of how the yellow creatures have slowly overridden what should be Gru’s franchise.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is a rather perfunctory prequel, which will probably entertain its younger audience members and test its older audience’s patience. If you’ve enjoyed the Despicable Me movies, this is right up your alley. Otherwise, I highly suggest watching The Bad Guys if you want an animated Universal flick that centers on a group of ne’er-do-wells.

Minions: The Rise of Gru premieres in theaters nationwide on July 1, 2022.


Minions: The Rise of Gru
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Minions: The Rise of Gru is a rather perfunctory prequel, which will probably entertain its younger audience members and test its older audience’s patience. If you’ve enjoyed the Despicable Me movies, this is right up your alley. Otherwise, I highly suggest watching The Bad Guys if you want an animated Universal flick that centers on a group of ne’er-do-wells.

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