A dozen years ago Illumination and Universal Pictures released an animated film entitled Despicable Me. Starring Steve Carell (The Office), the movie told the story of a supervillain named Gru, who found himself tricked into caring for three orphaned sisters and, even though they were annoying and intrusive, he ended up loving them and adopting them. He also had a group of cute, little, yellow men, called minions, who were willing to do almost anything for their boss. Though they were minor characters, the Minions stole the show and not only appeared in both Despicable Me sequels but also got their own spin-off movie, Minions. This Independence Day weekend the sequel, Minions: The Rise of Gru, heads to theaters nationwide.
It's the 1970's and disco music, afros, and bellbottoms are all in fashion. Twelve-year-old Gru (Carell) is just beginning his career as a supervillain aided by the Minions (Pierre Coffin). He dreams of growing up and becoming a member of the Vicious 6, a group of supervillains who are seemingly unstoppable. One day Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson; Hidden Figures) gets the other supervillains to gang up against the group leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin; Little Miss Sunshine), and kick him out of the group. While looking for his replacement in the Vicious 6, the group sends an invitation for an interview with Gru but instead, they belittle him when they realize Gru is only 12. In retaliation, Gru steals a precious stone from the group and finds himself being chased by numerous individuals.
Although Carell brought a unique and distinct vocal flair to Gru, it is Coffin that steals the show. As the voice of the minions, his cute, made-up language blends perfectly with the visuals presented. However, I did get the sense of there being more Spanish and Italian included in their language than I had heard in previous films. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not but it helped me understand them better. Julie Andrews (The Princess Diaries) once again puts on her German/Austrian accent to play Gru's disapproving mother. They are joined by Henson, Arkin, Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV), and Jean Claude Van Damn (Bloodsport).
As with everything Illuminations and Minions, the animation is excellent and the characters are extremely detailed. Of course, there are plenty of laughs to be had from Gru, the Minions, and the Vicious 6. However, the title of the movie is Minions: The Rise of Gru, which automatically gives it duplicity that is never resolved. The first Minions spin-off was focused on the minions and their journey to Gru but this sequel is more about Gru than the Minions so technically it should have been the fourth movie in the Despicable Me franchise as opposed to the sequel to the Minions' story.
The Minions are adorable and the fart machine is a gag that I can see little kids laughing hysterically at for at least a minute straight but I'm not sure this fifth film in the franchise lives up to those that came before. Illumination and Universal Pictures know they have a good thing on their hands and they plan on riding this gravy train for as long as possible but, I think they have started going off the rails and it may be time to look at other options to draw families into theaters.
The movie isn't bad and has a great soundtrack, but if you really want to enjoy this latest minions movie, go in with an open mind and lower expectations.