MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Comedy/Voices of: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Alan Arkin, Will Arnett, Steve Coogan, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jimmy O. Yang, John DiMaggio/Runtime: 88 minutes
*sigh* alright I guess I should be honest with you dear reader. I do not like the Minions. Like at all. Actually, dislike might be too nice of a phrase so let me try this again. I LOATHE the Minions with as much in the way of heartfelt passion as I can muster. Indeed to me Minions are more than just annoying; rather they are the animated fictional character equivalent of Monday mornings, the drivers on your way into work in the morning being idiots, an auto repair shop getting your broken down car first thing in the morning yet not starting to work on it till 2:30 in the afternoon, and the barista at the Starbucks you frequent constantly spelling your name wrong on your Carmel Frap all rolled into one entity. Yet despite such disdain, I must confess I still do find myself enjoying the first 3 Despicable Me movies to say nothing of the first Minions film from 2015. This is because yes the yellow abominations are a part of those cinematic endeavors, but there is plenty of other things about those films from the animation, the rest of the vocal performances from the clearly talented cast, some genuine emotion thrown into the mix, and even some of the humor did manage to win me over by film’s end. This therefore brings us to the new release Minions: The Rise of Gru and I can safely say that this is the film I have been afraid the previous installments, especially the first Minions film, would turn out to be. Don’t get me wrong: the cast they’ve assembled for this one (including a returning Steve Carell and Julie Andrews) do the best they can with the material and the animation is still not bad. However the jokes are ehhh at best, the narrative is a mess, and despite the vocal cast doing decent work they are still pushed to the sidelines quite a bit in favor of those yellow menaces. Suffice it to say that your enjoyment mileage might strongly depend on if you, or your kids, have a fondness for these abominations, but as for me this was not a movie. Rather it was a sanity test and based off how much it drove me crazy I think I failed.
The plot is as follows: So we see that this slice of cinema gets underway by introducing us to a concept that I am sure we all can relate to and that is the idea of having someone to look up to. Indeed for the Minions that person is their new boss Gru even if, at this point in his life, he is the exact same height as them. As for Gru however, that person is best showcased by the posters and toys he has of some of the best of the best when it comes to baddies in the biz including the sinister Belle Bottom, the twisted Stronghold, the fierce Nunchuck, the menacing Svengeance, the ghastly Jean-Clawed, and the iconic Wild Knuckles. Together, this dynamic group of personalities form the most infamous supervillain group in the world: the Vicious Six (dun dun dunnnn!) Of course as we should all know by now if there is one thing you should never do it is put your trust in a supervillain. A concept that, in the midst of stealing a precious artifact known as the Zodiac Stone Belle and the rest of the gang prove by betraying Knuckles. As a result, this opens up a vacant spot in the group that needs to be filled and that our young Mr. Gru desperately wishes to be the one to fill. Yet despite showing up to be interviewed for the post, we see Gru is tragically and swiftly rejected since the group feels that committing wickedness is an adult’s game and not one for chubby tiny children (clearly these guys never saw me back in the day successfully steal cookies from the cookie jar). Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that, out of a mixture of spite and wanting to prove he has what it takes, Gru decides to take the stone from them thus resulting in both the more than irked group as well as Knuckles to try and hunt him down in order to get the stone back. Of course you might be wondering just where our titular cretins fit into this whole mess. Well it turns out that even though it might seem like a luxury to have an army of assistants aiding you in your endeavors, it seems that at this point in his life Gru was not exactly sold on if these moronic, sloppy, and just plain childish aides had what it took to work with him. Of course can you really blame the guy when these yellow pills bungle every single thing that he asks them to do? Yet when they manage to really mess up big time when aiding Gru with making off with the Zodiac Stone, we see our little freakazoids forced into a spot where they either earn the chance to work with Gru again, find a new boss to work for, or just leave Earth altogether and go make life unbearable on another planet in another universe entirely (Ok so I totally made up the third option, but admit it: some of you wouldn’t mind seeing it happen too).
Now I am going to be perfectly honest with you dear reader: if there is a degree of genuine narrative to be found here, it really doesn’t work that well when all is said and done. Yes it does make the distinct choice to operate with a pair of narratives that are both designed for our yellow freaks of nature to aid Gru. Sadly, it would appear that both of these narratives are stricken with being as anti-dramatic and anti-funny as it possibly can. Sure in past films in this franchise, whenever the Minions were engaged in an assignment I suppose there was some degree of fun to be gained out of seeing the little morons act like they were people courtesy of a gallery of costumes and the like, but in this one it really doesn’t seem like even the world of the film cares about their antics at this point. Either that or the moments of chaos engaging are just so random that they literally having nothing to do with whatever it is they’re trying to do at any single point in time in the film. I mean I might be in the minority for thinking this, but when one of the repeating comedic bits this film is operating with consists of the Minions showing off their bare butt seemingly every 10 minutes…..I don’t really see how this film is designed to make people laugh. Make them look at the screen in disbelief maybe, make them question their life choices certainly, but laugh? Nahhhh. Of course perhaps I wouldn’t judge this film so harshly if I could accept the verbal humor. Of course even that is impossible since trying to decipher what is coming out of the Minions’ mouths at any point in time is nothing short of the Mt. Everest of challenges. Indeed if that doesn’t make it clear enough, the Minions are a group of babbling undecipherable idiots who may have one time entertained little kids with extremely short attention spans in movies where they were essentially co-stars, but when you have these same undecipherable moronic creations in a movie where they are, for all intents and purposes, the lead characters their babble starts to really take a toll on you psychologically to the point that whenever the other characters in this speak normally you’re not only thankful, but quite relieved as well. Of course, if these characters really first became popular ten years ago I feel this raises one final question and that is: who exactly is the audience for this film? I mean the kids who saw the first one back in 2010 are surely teens now, so perhaps it’s their little siblings and their parents who thought they were past this insanity only to find themselves being suckered into giving this franchise more of their hard-earned cash. With that said though, there is also the possibility that some Boomers and Gen X’ers might give this film a chance due to the film possessing quite a few 1970s throwbacks that will speak mostly to them. Ultimately though is it possible I am putting way too much brain power behind a film like this? Without question though when some of the other animated films from this year include the likes of Apollo 10 ½, Lightyear, and Turning Red it’s really hard not to. Thus the humor may be for the most part benign even in the face of a few attempts which may raise an eyebrow, but the truth is that if you are going to make a kids’ movie then please make it one that is NOT just a smattering of seemingly random images that have barely if any connectivity with each other that then proceeds to go on for close to an hour and a half. Suffice it to say this franchise may have a story to it, but this one doesn’t have that. Rather, it has a group of slapstick comedic bits that are poorly done to say nothing of verbal humor that is the stuff a subtitle writer’s worst nightmares are made of.
Even worse than that is how this slice of something resembling cinema treats its cast of characters that are NOT the titular yellow abominations. I mean don’t get me wrong: this slice of “cinema” does have some voice performances in this that are genuinely and surprisingly good from a cast of performers who, except for the guy voicing the Minions, have shown that with the right material they can be quite entertaining. That’s the thing though: the material that they are given in this is definitely not the right material. Oh sure it’s a treat to see someone like JCVD in something that’s not direct to video or especially Alan Arkin and Julie Andrews in something again period since it’s known they can be quite choosy at times with the films that they agree to be in nowadays (though in the case of Andrews I feel like it’s more a contractual obligation since she was in some of the other installments in this franchise) to name but a couple of examples. However, when this film doesn’t have either the heart or, dare I say the charm, of some of the more…..unusual choices those three have made (and trust me all three have at least one distinctly odd choice on their resumes) the film doesn’t work as well as it should because you can tell that these people aren’t really giving it their all. I mean this is especially true when it comes to the returning Steve Carell in the voice role of Gru. Indeed whereas in Despicable Me 1,2, and even 3 to an extent (with particular regard to the moments where he was allowed to cut loose and go wonderfully over the top as Gru’s twin brother Dru), Carell brought a wonderful mix of heart and genuine comedic timing to the role. In this one however while Carell does do a decent job at reprising the role it also feels like a bit of the passion has gone away and instead has been replaced by Carell just going through the motions for the sake of a paycheck. Suffice it to say that yes there are moments in this where the cast does do good work, but sadly they are let down by a film that doesn’t bring nearly as much passion to all the other aspects of the film as they try to do with their respective characters.
All in all well I can safely say that no the slice of cinema that is Minions: The Rise of Gru was by no means a film that was designed to bring new fans of this distinct animated franchise into the fold. At the same time however, there is something I can safely say about this film and that would be that this might just be the first installment in the series that is designed with the objective in mind of deliberately going out of its way to absolutely and positively irritate and annoy with a passion everyone from the most casual movie goer who clearly wandered into this by mistake (in that case sir or ma’am I think you’re looking for either Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, Jurassic World: Dominion, or The Black Phone and those are in the theaters surrounding this one. You’ll know it when you hear people actually enjoying themselves to varying degrees inside) all the way to those people who have *somehow* stuck with this series of films since day one for some idiotic reason or another. Of course, I know that it really doesn’t matter what I choose to write and say about this particular film since, by and large, animated movies like the 2 Minions films or the 2 Sing films for that matter are ones that have proven themselves to be quite successful at being critic-proof. Indeed in the eyes of adult movie goers it really doesn’t matter whether the movie is “good” or “bad”. Rather, what matters is if this slice of cinema is one that they can plant their child’s behind into a seat for and have them be entertained by for a period of time whilst they kick back and relax with a nice cold beverage to help them avoid the juvenile stupidity on screen. Yet even though Minions: The Rise of Gru is an animated slice of cinema that definitely fits that label to a t, there is also no denying that it does look like, for all intents and purposes, that creatively the gears are starting to come to a halt as there are just some comedic bits that can only be funny for a set amount of time and when it comes to the downright idiotically gibberish-speaking, moronic through and through shenanigans of these yellow freaks of nature I think that time has finally run out. Yet perhaps worse than that however is the fact that, despite being name dropped in the actual title of the film, the character of Gru feels like he is literally being shoehorned into a series that he used to be the main character of even though his arc in this….film….is the one that actually inspired me to laugh at least, as of this writing, a grand and proud total of three times in an 88-minute, including credits, film. Beyond that trinity of humorous bits however, Minions: The Rise of Gru claims to be a movie, but is really an exercise that is designed to determine the limits of how far a franchise is willing to go, how much family comedy that might be a bit on the risqué side is too much, and more than anything, your own level of sanity before you scream into the armrest, walk out into the lobby, and demand a refund. Suffice it to say that if you go into this wanting it to be a film concentrating on the lost creatures that even the land that time forgot doesn’t want you to know about, or a film focusing on Gru then I am sorry, but you are going to be severely disappointed. Rather, this slice of cinema is one that winds up being a skirmish between a pair of conflicting narratives. As a result, we see that this slice of cinema tosses to the side some genuinely great comedic beats, a cast that is actually legitimately great, and a franchise that started out charming and genuinely funny and instead now looks to be on its last legs. Of course, this IS the Minions I am talking about and knowing them I have no doubt they will find a way to show up in something again….much as I wish that they wouldn’t. Lucky me. On a scale of 1-5 I give Minions: The Rise of Gru “2022” a solid 2.5 out of 5.