The prequel to the Despicable Me franchise, and sequel to Minions is good,
but could have been even better!
Minions – The Rise of Gru serves multiple purposes with its delayed release; not only does it entertain the young and the old alike, but it also bridges the gap between two franchises – Despicable Me and Minions. Firstly, it is the sequel to Minions which came out in 2015, and takes the audience back to the time when Gru was just hoping to become a supervillain, and secondly, it presents Gru’s origin story to the audience who didn’t know many things about him. Since the plot, the execution, and the Minions aren’t limited to any specific age group, Minions – The Rise of Gru is a good, one-time affair.
In the mid-1970s, a few years after the Minions saved the British monarchy, they are serving their new mini-boss Gru. However, when an opening arises in the criminal organization Vicious 6, Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) decides to apply, hoping that they would recruit him as their newest member. When the supervillains make fun of his age and height, Gru steals a necklace of gems called The Zodiac Stones and runs away. What he doesn’t know is that the founder (and former member of Vicious 6) Wild Knuckles (voiced by the wonderful Alan Arkin) is also in search of The Zodiac Stones since he was the one who found it, only to be removed from the gang, and left for the dead.
While Gru is on the run from the Vicious 6 (voiced by Taraji P. Henson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, and Danny Trejo), he entrusts the most talkative Minion Otto with the precious stone, who trades it for a children’s toy on the way to the Headquarters. Will the Vicious 6 get their hands on The Zodiac Stones that will grant them superpowers on the eve of the Chinese New Year or will Gru save the day by finding the magical necklace and earning his place in the gang of supervillains, watch Minions – The Rise of Gru to find out.
Pierre Coffin is again the star of the show since he voices all the Minions including the newest member of the tribe Otto. Steve Carrell returns to what he does best and as the young Gru, he shows that he has all the qualities to become a supervillain, at that young age. Add to the equation his careless mother (voiced by the fascinating Julie Andrews) and Gru’s origin story is complete. Facing rejection from his mother who doesn’t care about his aspirations, Gru dreams of becoming a supervillain and is helped (or not helped) in his quest by the Minions!
The best thing about this installment is that the story races from the start to the end. Unlike the previous Minions flick where a lot of time was given to the origin story and less to the mission, here the mission takes the front seat and so do the players who feature in it. The story also takes place in multiple locations with one Minion riding all the way into the desert to recover The Zodiac Stones, the others fly to San Francisco to rescue Gru, who was held by the bad guys (not the Vicious 6) who wanted him to tell them about the stone.
Since the story takes place in the 1970s, everything from that era including ‘disco music’, ‘Jaws’, and kung fu make an appearance here and while Michelle Yeoh’s character Master Chow delivers a powerful-yet-brief performance, the audience takes back to the 70s’ touch with them when they exit the theatre.
Minions: The Rise of Gru doesn’t come out as a sequel or a prequel, but is more like a TV movie without which nothing would have changed. Except for the first meeting with his future collaborator Dr. Nefario (voiced by Russell Brand) this film does nothing to the franchise. It takes place eight years after Gru met the Minions for the first time in London, but there is hardly any mention of the first adventure in this film. Also, how the Minions spent the time before meeting Gru at his house isn’t given much thought either.
The worst thing about this flick is that the vicious villains don’t get the amount of time their stature demands. There is Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in the cast but you don’t ‘hear’ them much. Similarly, Taraji P. Henson seems to be doing most of the talking as Lucy Lawless and Danny Trejo are reduced to supporting roles. Also, the minions commandeering a passenger airplane might make the kids laugh, but ‘where were the real pilots’ remains a mystery. Yes, the film is supposed to be ridiculous, but sometimes ridiculous can be done in a better manner.
The Verdict: 3/5
Minions – The Rise of Gru might serve as another film in the Despicable Me franchise but it certainly isn’t the best in the series. From start till finish, it is confusing about who is the protagonist here – Minions or Gru. If it’s the former then they should have done more and if it was the latter, then he should have done more.
Directed by Kyle Balda, the film lacks the ‘wow’ factor and doesn’t stand out like its predecessors or successors. The jokes seem to be more related to the era the story takes place in but kids of today who believe that 2002 was ancient, will not be able to relate to the 1970s at all. Its biggest achievement is that it helps both kids and adults to escape from their monotonous lives but with a little more effort, it could have emerged as the winner in a race where the winner sets the bar high with every victory.