Admittedly, I gave up following not only the stories of the Despicable Me/Minions movies, but also how many are there even. I believe the last Minions: The Rise of Gru, is the fifth overall feature film, and it begins in the 1970s, when a 12-year-old boy named Gru (still voiced by Steve Carell) has fantasies of being the greatest supervillain the world has ever seen. . But more than that, he wants to be a member of his favorite evil supergroup, the Vicious 6, led by a legendary Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). When Knuckles is double-crossed by the other team members, they hold auditions to fill his position, and Gru sees this as his chance to get into the group, despite his age.
While the other members are impressed that someone so young already has henchmen (namely, the Minions), they practically laugh at him out of the room. He shows them who the real evil genius is by stealing an ancient necklace, thinking it will endear him to them; instead, they pursue him harshly, forcing Gru and the Minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and newcomer Otto to flee. Eventually, Gru ends up seeking advice from Wild Knuckles himself, who also seeks revenge on his former teammates.
To be honest, as I write this, I saw this movie three days ago and can barely remember the plot details. What stood out were the voice actors. Other members of the Vicious 6 include Dolph Lundgren as Svengeance; Danny Trejo as Fortress; Jean-Claude Van Damme as Jean-Clawed (because he has a giant lobster claw for one hand); Lucy Lawless as Nun-Chuck; and Taraji P. Henson as new team leader Belle Bottom (a kind of Foxy Brown villain). Michelle Yeoh appears as kung fu master Chow; Russell Brand arrives as scientist Nefario; and even Julie Andrews is Gru’s mother. Add other actors like Will Arnett, RZA, and Steve Coogan, and you have a pretty impressive cast, but they have absolutely nothing funny or interesting to do.
Instead, the world will likely focus on the Minions (who are all voiced by Pierre Coffin), the yellow, pill-shaped creatures, speaking a mysterious language that’s more like a mix of French and Spanish, with a fascination with bananas. They’re kinda silly, cute, and easily put aside for any merchandising without having to pay anyone for their likeness, so it’s a bargain for everyone.
Directed by Kyle Balda (and co-directed by Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val), from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel, The Rise of Gru is simply another reminder that the character means very little in most mainstream animated films that aren’t from Pixar. All you need to know is that Gru and the Minions are devoted to bad deeds but not really. Minions supplanted Gru in his own franchise because kids find them cute and parents like to give kids cute things, even as they celebrate (or at least acknowledge) that bad behavior is sometimes a thing to be honored. But Minions are also fiercely loyal, slightly dimwitted, and always ready to forgive. There are also lessons to be learned from this, I suppose, but you have to sit through a lot of junk to get there. This Minions the adventure is highly skippable unless you’re seriously interested in origin stories that tell us nothing about the characters at the center of the story.
The film is now in theaters.
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