July 5, 2022
In the 1970s, a young Gru (Steve Carell) is rejected by his favorite supervillain team the Vicious 6 (Taraji P. Henson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lungdren, Danny Trejo). After stealing their magical medallion, Gru is kidnapped by the former leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). Now Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (Pierre Coffin) must save their new boss and take down the superpowered competition.
In less than 15 years, Illumination Entertainment went from the underdog animation studio to one of the biggest money makers in the business. Pouring the majority of their budget into marketing while keeping animation costs low, the Despicable Me franchise won the hearts of families for better and worse. If only the trailers didn’t spoil everything. The first Minions gave the audience what they wanted with banana jokes and minionese. However, one scene proved surprising to its target demographic:
Its sequel, The Rise of Gru, endured two years of delays after the pandemic brought the world to its knees. And yet the delays proved beneficial because this is the best offering from the studio in a long time. The story works as both a prequel to the first movie and as a standalone minions adventure. While it gets chaotic in the long run, the non-stop comedy never gets boring with one crazy scenario to the next. Despite the branching storylines, everything converges to one of the best finales in 2022 animation. It’s also nice to have villains that just want to be evil, with a generational divide replacing the cliched sympathetic past. Sure, they don’t get much development but for a group of villains, they’re fantastic opponents against Gru and his walking twinkies. Steve Carell is still energetic as a child villain breaking into his career. Coming off the sequels where he turns a new leaf, this descent into villainy is what’s been missing from this franchise: That willingness to be mean spirited and, pun intended, despicable. Even if people are sick of the minions, a good chunk of the comedy is dedicated to their pain and misery. They’re punched, kicked, scorched, pummeled, and slapped without mercy. Even when the audience is supposed to feel sorry for them, it’s funnier to laugh at their suffering. If not for the family friendly denominator, this would be a reboot of Hostel.
Being set in the 1970s, there are plenty of vibrant colors in the animation, along with soft lighting to give everything an atmosphere. From the dusty highways to the neon lights in San Francisco, to the warm interior of movie theaters, airports, and dojos. There’s even a clever use of anatomy in the climax when the medallion takes center stage. Topped with incredible speed and timing when Gru and the minions get into trouble, this proves why slapstick is one of the cornerstones of comedy.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is the best Illumination movie since the Sing duology. The story is delightfully mean spirited, the action is bombastically creative, the animation takes full advantage of the time period, and the converging stories build to a satisfying climax. It can get too chaotic at times when the jokes come once every three seconds, but if that’s the biggest problem in an Illumination movie it’s doing something better than its past films. I recommend it to anyone who is already a fan of the series and even those who are annoyed by the minions just to see them tortured in this family friendly face-off. Although on a side note, there’s a lot of contradicting silence surrounding the cross-dressing minions (complete with fruits hanging off their chests) after the overblown backlash surrounding Lightyear’s same-sex kiss. The minions probably watched Bugs Bunny cartoons for inspiration.