REVIEW: Solid story, setting, voice cast lift animated sequel/prequel ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ above its predecessor
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s rare to get a movie that is both a sequel *and* a prequel at the same time, yet Minions: The Rise of Gru from Universal Pictures and Illumination Studios manages the task well–and actually ends up as one of the better entries in the whole franchise.
The first Minions movie grossed over $1B worldwide back in 2015 as it told the story of how the funny, little, yellow, gibberish-spouting beings from the Despicable Me movies came to be, and ended with them meeting Gru, the villain they would one day come to serve. The Rise of Gru is a sequel to that movie, while also a serving as a prequel to the Despicable Me trilogy.
The movie was supposed to release back in July of 2020, but was delayed twice due to the pandemic.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is set in the mid-1970’s. Gru (voiced again by Steve Carell–only in a higher pitch to sound younger) is just a 12-year old boy stuck in elementary school, but who dreams of being the worst villain ever.
He idolizes a group of villains called the Vicious Six, which consists of Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless) and Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme). But his favorite is their longtime leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin).
Young Gru is thrilled when when the Six, now led by Belle Bottom, has an unexpected opening and he manages to secure an interview to join the team. His enthusiasm is dampened when they laugh at the idea of a 12-year old boy wanting to join, so Gru decides to prove his worth by stealing a valuable and powerful object from the group, something they’ll do ANYTHING to get back.
Now, with Gru on the run from the most evil supervillains of his day, the Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) are determined to help out their “mini-boss”: Kevin, Stuart and Bob attempt to learn the art of kung fu from kindly acupuncturist Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh) to help free him from his captors; newcomer Minion Otto, who mistakenly gave away the object, rides his big wheel toy across the country to try to get it back; and Gru learns that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.
THINGS I LIKED
For me, Minions: The Rise of Gru was a big improvement on the first Minions movie. The Minion characters have always been cute and funny from the moment of their introduction. But the gibberish they speak means they can’t carry long stretches of a movie, even if it’s centered on them which is why I didn’t connect to the first film.
So the idea by writers Matthew Fogel and Brian Lynch to center the story around young Gru allows the Minions to do what they do best: be cute and funny in short little bursts. A scene where three of the Minions manage to fly a plane to San Francisco was laugh-out-loud hilarious and would give Maverick from Top Gun a run for his money.
The creative 1970’s-themed villains and their voices were quite clever, as was the idea of having Julie Andrews play against type as Gru’s self-absorbed and cranky mother. Arkin’s character Wild Knuckles also gets moments to shine as he first kidnaps Gru, then takes him under his wing.
The soundtrack was solid, with covers of songs from the 1970’s scattered throughout, and there were plenty of Easter Eggs for long-time fans of the Despicable Me franchise.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is rated PG
With Gru’s story arc in Despicable Me having pretty much run it’s course (he reformed as a villain, got married and is raising his adopted children), this time period prior to the original three DM movies seems like the perfect place to explore.
The first Minions proved to me that it’s the combination of the Minions characters and Gru together that creates the magical mix that has brought in so much money for Universal. Sticking to this time period should allow them to continue to mine that charm as long as they can.
Honestly, I think there ought to be an original Minions short cartoon that plays before as many Universal or Illumination movies as is appropriate, kind of like how Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Popeye or Mickey Mouse shorts used to play before movies back in the day.
I don’t know if Minions: The Rise of Gru will hit a billion dollars at the box office like the last Minions movie, but it was pretty fun to watch and my kids enjoyed it too. It’s a much more enjoyable entry from start to finish over the first movie, with clever villains, a great voice cast, soundtrack, and just the right amount of Minions hi-jinks mixed in.
Andy’s final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Minions: The Rise of Gru is playing only in theaters. No streaming option for it yet, though it’s scheduled to make its streaming debut on the Universal-owned Peacock app sometime within four months of its release in theaters.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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