Minions: The Rise of Gru
The appeal of the Minions – the yellow-hued, goggle-eyed, dungaree-wearing little creatures that first appeared on our screens in Despicable Me over a decade ago in 2010 – might seem something of an enigma, yet it remains undeniable.
The sequel to 2015 prequel Minions (which itself was a spin-off from the original computer-animated franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru) takes viewers back to 1970s San Francisco and Gru’s youth. When asked in school, as a geeky, friendless 11-year-old, what he would like to be when he grows up, he confidently replies: “A supervillain!” His classmates may laugh, but he’s not kidding. And so we learn the beginnings of the evil-loving yet endearingly offbeat Eastern European that audiences have grown to know and love. We see the moment the wacky mini henchmen initially come into Gru’s life, responding to an ad for help around the house by camping out in droves on his mum’s front lawn until he takes them in; also chronicled is his determination to join the Vicious Six supervillains when a vacancy becomes available, and how he comes to team up with the revered but ageing bad guy, Wild Knuckles, after becoming the clan’s enemy number one for stealing a precious stone in an ill-fated attempt to prove his criminal credentials.
What’s striking is how, against all odds, the creators continue to find novel ways for the audience to enjoy their time with the Minions: despite speaking in a smattering of different languages that’s ostensibly unintelligible gibberish (genius voicing by Pierre Coffin) and engaging in constant slapstick-style gags, they simply are continually hilarious, wonderfully mischievous, darn cute and, as Gru learns, always there for him in the end, even if they do leave havoc in their wake.
The comedy and action are also brought to life by an impressive A-list cast for the central characters, including Steve Carell returning to nail his higher-pitched voicing of youthful Gru, Julie Andrews as his mother, Michelle Yeoh as the Minions’ unlikely Kung Fu master acupuncturist Master Chow, and Russell Brand as the cockney-accented record-shop-owner-turned-mad-scientist Dr Nefario (his store aptly named Criminal Records). Wild Knuckles is taken on by Alan Arkin, Taraji P Henson is Belle Bottom (the new leader of the Vicious Six) and Jean-Claude Van Damme even appears as one of her crew, Jean-Clawed (just one of many brilliant evil-doer nicknames).
Plus, there are plenty of nods to the original films to satisfy the super fans. 70s San Francisco is lovingly animated, from the hairstyles and aesthetics to the neighbourhood streets and Bond-style evil lairs, and the retro soundtrack is an utter delight, equally entertaining at face value for the little ones but with great nostalgia-inducing beats for the adults, for whom many of the tracks will have additional resonance.
One could easily argue the formulaic plotlines in this five-movie-strong franchise are starting to feel repetitive. But, equally, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments alongside unbridled silliness and surprisingly touching bad-guys-with-a-good-heart moments in Minions: The Rise of Gru to justify its existence as a standalone film. Go for the madcap Minion escapades, stay for the 70s disco.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is released nationwide on 1st July 2022.
Watch the trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru here: