MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU ★★★
(PG) 87 minutes
The early Minions films absorbed everything that Pixar has taught us about the laughs to be had in animating previously inanimate objects and turning them into comedians.
These small, yellow, big-eyed creatures came across as being endearingly innocent, which is quite an achievement since they’re all about the satisfaction to be found in being bad.
The scripts were full of deadpan wit and the comedy was an artful union of slapstick and wordplay. But longevity has brought a few changes.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is the fifth film in the franchise, which began with Despicable Me in 2010, and in that time, the Minions’ appeal has become muffled by the surrounding cacophony.
The opening chase scene is typical. It makes the ears ring and the eyes pop with a niftily choreographed overdose of noise and movement in primary colors while introducing Belle Bottom (voiced by Taraji P. Henson) and her fellow members of the Vicious 6, a gang of arch villains who will dominate the narrative for the duration. They’re not exactly youthful – two of them are voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren – but they are both outsize and energetic. When they’re out in full force, there’s not much room on the screen for anyone else.
As fans already know, the Minions’ mission in life is to serve bad guys but they have a spotty record in this department, having inadvertently caused the downfall of several of their previous employers. However, when they come across Felonius Gru (Steve Carell), an ambitious and inventive ne’er do well, they regain their confidence and become his loyal servants.
This new episode in their careers is another prequel, following on from its predecessor, Minions (2015), and it centers on Gru’s boyhood, dealing with his hero worship of the Vicious 6’s founder, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). When Knuckles is double-crossed by Belle and forced out of the gang, Gru becomes his ally and the mayhem accelerates.