Genre: CG Animation
Director: Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val
Cast: Steve Carell, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Alan Arkin
Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://uni.pictures/MinionsSite
Opening Day: 30 June 2022
Synopsis: In the heart of the 1970s, amid a flurry of feathered hair and flared jeans, Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carell) is growing up in the suburbs. A fanboy of a supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6, Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them. Luckily, he gets some mayhem-making backup from his loyal followers, the Minions. Together, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto—a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please—deploy their skills as they and Gru build their first lair, experiment with their first weapons and pull off their first missions. When the Vicious 6 oust their leader, legendary fighter Wild Knuckles (Oscar® winner Alan Arkin), Gru interviews to become their newest member. It doesn’t go well (to say the least), and only gets worse after Gru outsmarts them and suddenly finds himself the mortal enemy of the apex of evil. On the run, Gru will turn to an unlikely source for guidance, Wild Knuckles himself, and discover that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.
Whereas the ‘Despicable Me’ trilogy was about the exploits of a reformed super-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), the ‘Minions’ spinoff was really about the adventures of Gru’s irresistibly adorable yellow sidekicks. Indeed, even as Gru is in the subtitle, this is ultimately still a ‘Minions’ spinoff, so it is befitting that the emphasis is on them than on Gru himself.
That said, it is Gru who sets in motion the events of this 1970s-set animation: not only is it the then 11-year-old’s decision to apply to join the world’s premier supervillain team, the Vicious 6, it is also the pre-teen Gru’s call to steal their most treasured loot when he is humiliated by them during the audition due to his age.
That sets off not just the members of the Vicious 6 after him – among them, an evil Viking known as Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), a spooky nun called Nun-chuck (Lucy Lawless) and a lobster-limbed baddie named Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme) – Gru also becomes the target of their former betrayed leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin).
No thanks to one of the bumbling Minions whom he handed the precious Zodiac Stone to while fleeing from the Vicious 6, Gru has to set off almost immediately after escaping from them to retrieve the Stone that the said Minion Otto had traded for a pet rock with a child at his birthday party.
Unfortunately for Gru, he is kidnapped by Wild Knuckles soon after stepping out of his house, setting the stage therefore for a relentless series of misadventures as the three chief Minions – Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all voiced by creator Pierre Coffin) - head to San Francisco to rescue him.
It should be apparent that the plot here is simply a device to string together the series of gags involving the Minions, many of which have been teased in the trailers. Among the funniest is one where Kevin, Stuart and Bob disguise themselves as pilots and cabin crew in order to fly themselves to San Francisco.
Just as hilarious is their kung-fu training with martial artist-turned acupuncturist Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), especially when she teaches them how to ‘find their inner beast’. And then there is the climax, which sees Kevin, Stuart and Bob transformed into a bunny, goat and rooster respectively with the power of the Zodiac Stone, pitted against the Vicious 6’s more intimidating animal forms, including dragon, monkey, snake and tiger.
Given how the storytelling pretty much lurches from gag to gag, it should not be surprising that the movie feels scattershot. Thankfully, at just under one and a half hours, it doesn’t overstay its welcome; instead, director Kyle Balda, who was also at the helm of the last ‘Minions’ movie and ‘Despicable Me 3’ keeps the pace fast, furious and even frenetic, such that any joke which fails to hit its mark (and there are quite a number) is quickly replaced by the next.
Balda also has much fun with the retro setting, from the needle-drops such as Linda Rondstadt’s ‘You’re No Good’ to The Carpenters’ ‘Goodbye to Love’, to the hairdos and costumes, and even to the re-creation of San Francisco, especially the streets of Chinatown where the finale unfolds against.
Yet ultimately, this is still a Minions movie, and to its credit, ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ further reinforces just why these little yellow weirdos have such popular appeal to kids and adults alike. So as familiar as it has become, there’s no denying the fun and glee they offer with their brand of nutty humour. As long as you’re prepared to indulge in exactly the same formula as before, you’ll find this latest chapter a breezy delight, with the colourful vintage backdrop an pleasurable throwback.
(Bright, breezy and delightful, this latest 'Minions' chapter is stuffed with looney gags of the irresistibly adorable yellow kind, with a colourful 1970s setting to boot)
Review by Gabriel Chong