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‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ (Blu-ray review)

Universal Studios

I would love to time travel and talk to someone coming out of Despicable Me, to let them know the endless future of Minions movies that they were about to watch.

Who could have predicted we would have standalone films in addition to their Despicable Me appearances?

Perhaps Director Kyle Balda, who has been with the Minions franchise since the beginning. Having the same person at the helm can ensure continuity but also become tedious with the same voice leading the narrative. However, that’s something that works surprisingly well in kid’s entertainment: dependable, routine, sameness (with a few jokes thrown in for us grown-ups).

Minions: The Rise of Gru takes us back to the 70s, when a young Gru (Steve Carell) finds out there may be an opening in the supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6.

When they are less than excited about babysitting duty, Gru hatches a plan to prove just how determined he is to be as great as his villainous idol – the legendary fighter and former group leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). While Gru’s loyal Minions – Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and newcomer Otto – up their skills to match Gru’s ambition, we also get to watch as they commit their earliest capers, build the first lair, and meet young versions of later friends.

I come to this franchise as an aunt of two small adoring fans. They know their names, their styles, and find their prop humor screamingly hilarious. What I can say is that after watching The Rise of Gru I can remember two. Kevin has an almost discernible personality, and the new one is incredibly desperate to be well-liked. Otto is like a sparkling toy fresh out of the wrapper, and it’s nice to have some personal story to hold onto when all the other Minions start to blend together.

Amazingly, they are all voiced by French voice actor Pierre Coffin. Across the board, from Carell’s translation of Gru’s gravelly yelps into a preteen squeak to Taraji P. Henson’s foxy take on Belle Bottom, the voice acting is engaging. The story, however, is convoluted and disconnected. There is also a really dated undertone of Orientalism that could have been softened with a bit more care towards culture and characters. You can easily reference martial arts and Chinese New Year’s without engaging in tokenism.

With that said, the Minions are taking the lead on most of the narrative with Gru’s self-discovery coming as an earnest side story to their hijinks. Their bouncy gibberish take on The Three Stooges leads to cute skits like playing a flight attendant trying to calm a crying baby, oblivious to the fact that they are driving the tears. The brief kung fu lesson from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh) is also full of gags that will make young kids giggle endlessly and earn at least a few chuckles from adults.

Extras include two mini movies, an extended scene, outtakes, and several additional featurettes.

There is nothing new or revolutionary in Minions: The Rise of Gru but why roll the dice on 90 minutes of potential child distraction? Choose something that gives the same happy results in non-offensive babbling fare every time you see their little yellow noseless faces.

It’s nothing new, but that’s the point.


*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy, Chris Renaud
Screenplay by Matthew Fogel
Story by Brian Lynch, Matthew Fogel
Directed by Kyle Balda
Starring Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Taraji P. Henson,
Michelle Yeoh, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo ,Lucy Lawless


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