Review by Paul Gibbs
I’m a huge fan of animated films. Pixar’s two offerings, Turning Red and Lightyear are likely my top two for the year so far. But there is a difference between a family film and a children’s film, and while those two Pixar films were the former, Minions: The Rise of Gru is decidedly the latter. The good news is that it’s a pretty good children’s movie, and a decided improvement on its immediate predecessor, if only because of the return of Steve Carrell’s Gru as a major character and the addition of Alan Arkin, who is forbidden by federal law from not being entertaining.
I hesitate to use the term “story” to describe 87 minutes of anthropomorphic Twinkies talking in gibberish, but what passes for a story involves 11 year old Gru in 1976 attempting to join a group of villains known as the Vicious Six (because Sony and Marvel own the trademark on “Sinister Six”.). The six have just made an opening by dumping founder and leader Wild Knuckles (Arkin) and are looking for a new member. But will moving up in the world of villainy mean Gru has to leave behind the faithful title characters? No. it won’t. This is a prequel and we already know the Minions stick with him through three Despicable Me movies.
But as thin as the plot is and as repetitive as the gags can become, this Minions sequel is sure to thoroughly enthrall its target audience, and that includes my six year old son, who laughed and cheered throughout. And if you’re seeing it with a child you love, Minions: The Rise of Gru is likely to be enough fun to make you only occasionally wish it would hurry up and get over. Carrell is funny and likable enough as the young villain to carry the film, which puts a little less pressure on the Minions, who are better suited to a supporting role. The 1970s setting is fun, especially as an introduction to the funky decade for children (my son was fascinated to learn what Jaws was.).
Fans of the series are going to have fun, especially if they’re little Gru’s age or younger. It’s just a shame that as a series which started out as such a refreshing and charming change of pace with the original Despicable Me now lacks so much of that originality and charm. Still, children will be delighted, and sometimes it’s okay for a children’s movie just to be a children’s movie.