Animation feature film “Minions: The Rise of Gru” entertained me more than I expected. Yes, I only mildly enjoyed “Despicable Me” (2010), its following 2013 sequel, and its spin-off entry “Minions” (2015), and I am not a big fan of those goofy yellow creatures called the Minions, but “Minions: The Rise of Gru” distinguishes itself a bit with substantial style and personality. The film is certainly as silly and outrageous as its predecessors, but, in my humble opinion, it is the most entertaining one in the ongoing series which will soon give us another adventure of the Minions and their ‘evil’ boss.
The story begins at the point not long after the ending of “Minions”. After coming across young Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), the Minions started to serve him while living in the basement of the house where he lives with his cranky mother, and they happily (and clumsily) work together for building his underground lair while he is hoping to be recognized by a certain group of infamous supervillains someday.
Those supervillains are called “the Vicious Six”, and the opening scene of the film shows their latest evil adventure. Once they obtain a map showing the location where an ancient item of enormous magical power has been hidden, Wild Knuckles (voiced by Alan Arkin), who has been the leader of the group, promptly goes there and manages to succeed in the end, but, alas, he is later betrayed by the other members in the last minute.
After snatching that ancient item from Wild Knuckles, the other members of the Vicious Six look for any good villain to fill the current vacant spot in their group, and that is where Gru enters the picture. When he receives the invitation message from the Vicious Six, he is certainly delighted, but, not so surprisingly, he finds himself ridiculed and ignored when he shows up in front of the members of the Vicious Six, so he decides to steal that ancient item when a golden opportunity comes to him unexpectedly.
However, of course. things do not go as well as Gru hoped at first. While he manages to snatch that ancient item from the Vicious Six with some assistance from several Minions (Please don’t ask me which of them is Kevin or Stuart or whatever, by the way), that ancient item happens to be lost for a rather silly reason, and then Gru is kidnapped by Wile Knuckles, who actually survived and has been looking for any chance to retrieve that ancient item for his revenge.
Around that narrative point, the film comes to focus more on those several Minions as they attempt to rescue Gru in addition to getting that ancient item back, and they surely give us a series of slapstick moments. At one point, as already shown to us via the trailer of the film, three of them dare to fly a commercial airplane despite having no experience or knowledge at all, and the following outcome is nearly disastrous to say the least.
While cheerfully alternating between Gru and the Minions, the film also delights us with a number of fun cultural details expected from its period background, which is the exaggerated version of the American society in the 1970s. I was amused by the brief appearances of two certain classic American films from the 1970s, and I also appreciate how the film humorously utilizes a number of various pop songs from the 1970s including the one performed by Linda Ronstadt.
One of the funniest things in the film comes from when the Minions happen to come into the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco. They come across a Chinese American lady who turns out to be a former Kung Fu master, and, what do you know, they soon go through a number of training sessions under her stern but benevolent guidance, though, as you already expected, they are pretty clumsy from the very beginning.
The story eventually culminates to a climactic part where lots of actions happen here and there, but the film thankfully never loses its sense of fun while generating some sincerity from the unlikely partnership between Gru and Wild Knuckles, who comes to care about Gru a lot more than he admits on the surface. Steve Carell and Alan Arkin, who incidentally worked together in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) and “Get Smart” (2008), click well together with their different voice acting styles, and Arkin demonstrates that he has not lost any of his comic talent even though he is approaching to 90 at present.
The other main cast members of the film also have lots of fun with their respective roles. While Taraji P. Henson surely enjoys every juicy moment from her villain character, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, and Danny Trejo are well-cast as the other members of the Vicious Six, and Julie Andrews and Michelle Yeoh steal the show as keeping their voice acting as straight as possible.
In conclusion, “Minions: The Rise of Gru”, directed by Kyle Balda is one or two steps above “Minions”, but I have to tell you that your entertainment from it depends on how much you can tolerate those silly creatures. Although I often find them rather tiresome, I have gotten accustomed to them to some degree, so I had a fairy good time in this case, but you should think twice if you cannot possibly tolerate them.