Minions: The Rise of Gru

Back in 1976 when he was just 11 years old, all Gru (voice of Steve Carell) dreamed of being was a Super Villain.  His idols were the Vicious Six, especially their founder Wild Knuckles (voice of Alan Arkin), but when he succeeded in stealing the Zodiac Stone, they left him for dead, hoping to attract younger blood.  Gru is over the moon when he attains an interview for the slot, but when Belle Bottom (voice of Taraji P. Henson) informs him they’re not interested in a kid, he decides to make an impression by robbing the Zodiac Stone right then and there in Minions: The Rise of Gru.

Laura's Review: B

If the first “Minions” movie largely focused on them, this second entry is the perfect melding of the supporting players and “Despicable Me” as it charts the little yellow guys’ first adventure with Gru in his formative years.  “Minions” director Kyle Balda keeps the multiple story threads from Brian Lynch and Matthew Fogel, who also penned the screenplay, bouncing along, this time to a potent 70’s soundtrack.

After a prologue introducing the duplicitous Vicious Six in their own adventure grabbing the Stone, the action turns to Gru as he reluctantly takes in a pack of Minions (voiced by “Despicable Me” and “Minions” director Pierre Coffin in an almost discernible Spanish inflected gibberish) who’ve responded to his add for henchmen.  They quickly mount such evil deeds as clearing a packed screening of “Jaws” with fart bombs and gaming an arcade, but as he sets off for his meeting at Criminal Records, Gru tells Kevin, Stuart and Bob they’re not ready for the big time.

They’ll show him!  But after aiding their ‘mini boss’ in acquiring the Stone, Gru explodes when he learns that Otto, a Minion oddball, traded it for a Pet Rock on the way home.  Furious, Gru sets off to recover it, but hardly gets a block away when he’s snatched into a van, kidnapped by his favorite villain who, it turns out, isn’t dead after all.  While Otto sets off on a Big Wheel to get the Stone back, a mission that will find him furiously peddling after a biker (voice of RZA), Kevin, Stuart and Bob trace their mini Boss to San Francisco.

Although it is advancing the plot, the segment where Kevin, Stuart and Bob impersonate a flight crew to commandeer a commercial plane could have been a standalone short – it’s one of the funniest bits in the movie.  Once there, they’ll become protégés of Master Chow (voice of Michelle Yeoh), a Chinatown acupuncturist and former kung fu master who makes mincemeat of Knuckles’ henchmen.  Meanwhile Gru will outlast Knuckles’ Disco Inferno to team up with the aging villain against his backstabbing colleagues.

The production design embraces all things 70’s from the obvious, like the metallic pink Corvette parked outside of Gru’s house to the surprising, like the Love’s Baby Soft inspired bath products in Gru’s shower.  Costume ranges from Belle Bottom’s massive afro and purple catsuit to Knuckles’ white bell bottoms and red leather boots.  The well curated soundtrack pops with such gems as “Cecilia,” “Funkytown” and the secret password that is “You’re No Good.”  The Bondian opening credits are set to Sonny and Cher’s “Bang Bang” and cinephiles will note a connection to “The Big Chill” in the placement of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” sung here by a Minion choir.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is an origin story that delivers – be on the lookout for future villains past and the arrival of not only the Minions but Dr. Nefario (voice of Russell Brand).  If there’s a complaint to be made, it is that this multi-pronged adventure is such an embarrassment of riches (Julie Andrews returns as Gru’s mom Marlena), that the talents of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Lucy Lawless and Danny Trejo are wasted (as Vicious Six members Jean Clawed, Svengeance, Nunchuk and Stronghold).  These ‘Vicious’ villains pale in comparison to the 11 year-old Gru. 

Robin's Review: B+

Gru (Steve Carell) is 11¾ years old and aspires to be the greatest super villain in the world. Then, he meets and adopts his future hench-buddies and begins his quest to join his idols, the world’s best villains, the Vicious 6, in “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

This is the fifth Minions movie since “Despicable Me” first hit the streets in 2010. Each time, the involving and endearing little Twinkies get closer to our hearts and minds. This allows two things: for us, the fans, to bask in the pleasure of our Minion hordes and for the filmmakers to invent a new past for the little guys to play in. That, alone, would be fun but we also get the beginnings of Gru and evil ambitions – let us say that the lad had mummy issues.

Since we are all familiar the little yellow guys and their need to be wanted by a master criminal (or, here, a master criminal in-training), we can just enjoy the show. It is chock full of fun and funny stuff with a gag-a-minute – if you do not like one joke, another will be right along – and the use of old rock songs and their timing borders on genius.

We get a tutorial on American history as the story - directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val and written by Matthew Fogel and Brian Lunch - is set in 1976 and the idols for impressionable young Gru are the Vicious 6 – leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), giant lobster-claw-wielding Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Swedish super-fighter Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), metal-fisted Stronghold (Danny Trejo) and the nunchuck-twirling nun, Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless).

But, there is no honor among these thieves and five of the V6 plot against their leader, Wild Knuckles, and do him in, or so they think. The betrayal sparks the now Vicious 5 to put out an ad in the criminal world recruiting a replacement. Enter young Gru, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to be a criminal mastermind. Belle Bottom dismisses the little mastermind-to-be as a “chubby little punk.” This, of course, inspires the budding young crime lord to take vengeance and become Number 1, with a little help from his Minions.

As expected, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, our favorite Minions, are back but there is a new addition to help their young master. Otto is a pudgy little Twinkie who talks incessantly and just wants to please his boss. Otto, it turns out, will go balls to the wall to please Gru and he gets his own fun side story.

I find it hard to believe that there are those out there (I know one) who do not appreciate the latest entry to the franchise. IMHO, they did not see the same movie I did and I had a ball. Also, keep your eyes peeled for all of the clever 1970s attention to details.

Universal releases "Minions: The Rise of Gru" in theaters on 7/1/22.