Minions: The Rise Of Gru (Universal Pictures)
Anyone reading this review is unlikely to be the target audience for Minions: The Rise of Gru, the latest movie from the Despicable Me series. These movies are meant not just for children, but small ones who might be able to read, but more on the level of Dr. Seuss than film criticism. This movie isn’t meant for anyone reading this, but based on laughing of small children in the audience for this film’s screening, it might just be for them.
But parents should not take their children to Minions: The Rise of Gru. Instead, if possible, parents should make sure that the grandparents take the tots, because along with the childlike humor of the little yellow minions, the film takes place in the seventies and mines a ton of humor from the stereotypes people have from that era. In the film, Gru (Steve Carell) is a pre-teen boy who aspires to be a super-villain. When there is an opening in the league of supervillains known as the Vicious Six, Gru applies, and steals a magical amulet that the Vicious Six wish to use to defeat the Anti-Villain Defense League. Gru is kidnapped by Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the founder of the Vicious Six who was left for dead by them, and the Minions have to save him and find the amulet before the Vicious Six can get it.
The leader of the Vicious Six, voiced by Taraji P. Henson, is named Belle Bottom, and that’s the level of humor at which Minions: The Rise of Gru operates. One of the other Six is Jean-Clawed, he has a large lobster claw as an arm, and no points for guessing which Belgian action star voices him. These jokes are corny, they’re dumb, and yet completely inoffensive. It’s Dad humor (or, given the seventies setting, Granddad humor at this point).
Meanwhile, the Minions themselves do their routine that is pitched so specifically to children and no one else. Their weird voices aren’t far off from actual baby-talk, which is probably why kids find it so appealing. That same appeal may baffle adults — they look like the unholy pairing of a Teletubby and an eraser — but the Minions have never been and never will be for them. The main three Minions are supposed to be distinguishable from one another, but besides the fact that one has a single eye and the others two, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference. But they do get to learn martial arts from Michelle Yeoh, and after Everything Everywhere All at Once, any character played by Yeoh earns a movie instant goodwill.
In the Despicable Me movies, the adult Gru has always been an odd figure that the films have tried to soften while still maintaining that he really is a villain. Having Gru as a preteen, still voiced by the nearly sixty year old Carell, feels like a bit of an improvement. He’s merely a very, very strange kid instead of a malevolent figure who’s been neutered, and the character’s rapport with Wild Knuckles (the Little Miss Sunshine reunion between Alan Arkin and Steve Carell no one expected) actually provides some nice moments.
After multiple Despicable Me movies, the Minions spinoffs, television shows and undoubtedly more, the Minions have established themselves as incredibly marketable commodities. They might not be for adults, but they don’t need to be. Minions: The Rise of Gru will make young kids — and oddly, their grandparents — laugh, and that’s their purpose.
Minions: The Rise of Gru
Now playing in theaters
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