Minions: The Rise of Gru hits theaters July 1, 2022.
It would be a silly message to rate a Minions movie on anything other than its own terms, but it’s challenging to figure out what those terms are. The Minions, with their speech made up of fabricated French, bits of English and Spanish, and almost entirely gibberish, are the kind of rippling caricatures used to entertain babies, but they’ve taken on a life of their own on social media, as digital stationery for wine aunts and weird uncles for typing out innocent mundane things (“Exercise? I thought you said extra fries!”) The Despicable Me series has had quite a history (or rather, before the prequel), so it must have a narrative function, and as a movie it technically has a story and characters, but they all exist in the service of slapstick gags that might as well be isolated vignettes.
Wrapped in all this, the question is who is this movie for, if the Minions got fame more than a decade ago? The teenagers who were children during the first Despicable Me† Probably not. Little kids today? Perhaps. Their millennial parents? Perhaps, but the 1970s film’s setting leads to a flurry of period-specific allusions aimed at Boomers and Gen Xers. Am I thinking too hard about this? Absolutely, but it’s hard not to in a year where we got the Pixar instant classic To blush† Minions: The Rise of Gru is ultimately harmless, but children deserve a little better than a flurry of random images that barely feel connected.
The prologue gives us a fun look at a group of bad guys, the Vicious 6, as they steal an ancient artifact. There’s Belle Bottom by Taraji P. Henson, whose skills aren’t entirely clear, but there’s also Svengeance, a Mad Max-style roller skater voiced by Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo as the rock-solid Stronghold, and the two most amusingly conceived villains in the group, Lucy Lawless as Nunchucks (a nunchuck-wielding nun), and Jean-Clawed, a Frenchman with a huge lobster claw, voiced by none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme. The crew is completed by Alan Arkin’s Wild Knuckles, an old martial artist who is thrown out of the team once he helps them steal an old pendant. He’s the closest thing to a real character, as his five former teammates usually disappear into the background like an undecipherable blob (a handful of funny jokes aside).
Sometime later, we’re reintroduced to little Gru (a pitch-shifted Steve Carell), whose super-villain dreams make him laugh at the hands of his classmates (if you think this embarrassment could affect his story, think again. after). And of course, what would Gru be without the Minions in his basement, hundreds of whom appear on-screen, but four of whom are the actual focus. The main three were pseudo-characters in the Minions movie from 2015† They don’t have so much different personalities as they have recognizable shapes – there’s the short two-eyed (Bob), the short one-eyed (Stuart) and the tall (Kevin) – and this time it’s Otto, a round with underwires. He messes up a lot. Gru yells at him and doubts him, just like other people doubt Gru’s own ability to get into mischief, but neither is much.
Gru’s story revolves around auditioning for the Vicious 6, then crossing paths with its disgraced former founder, Wild Knuckles, who, it turns out, is Gru’s favorite villain. Knuckles is a loner with henchmen that he treats like garbage. Gru is about the same. And yet their collective coming-to-Jesus moment exists only theoretically, through tonally “serious” scenes that make them think about no one and nothing in particular, and for no real reason.
Whatever story The Rise of Gru may seem like, it wobbles like the blank skin suit of a proper children’s movie (like the three Despicables Me!). It sends Kevin, Stuart and Bob in one direction, and Otto in another, on disparate missions to help Gru, but both storylines seem to suffer from severe cases of anti-drama and anti-comedy. The Minions are on a mission, and part of the fun comes from the fact that they’re chaotic yellow pill creatures pretending to be humans via an assortment of costumes, but nobody really seems to care that they’re at the end. of the day are Minions. Some of their jokes are based on dialogue, but they rely on being able to decipher verbatim gibberish. When the Minions encounter obstacles, they usually (?) talk out within seconds – which also lets the side character involvement, voiced by Michelle Yeoh, Julie Andrews and RZA, pass without impact – and when they do cause a stir, the is usually the result of “lol random” decisions that completely conflict with what they’re trying to achieve in a particular scene. It shouldn’t matter, but the Minions’ Gru-centric objectives are pretty much the only things that define them as “characters” in the broadest sense of the word. If the humor doesn’t come from these pesky little goblins trying to do meaningful human things, it rests only on their bottoms sticking out of their overalls, a joke that repeats itself like clockwork every 10 or 15 minutes.
Minions: The Rise of Gru has a plot, but no story. It contains references, but few jokes. In the end it comes down to whether or not you can tolerate 90 minutes of “le ooga booga banana por favor”, and if you’re under 3 years old, the answer is probably yes – but in that case any parent can just put their kid down too. for a YouTube playlist of D Billions instead of.