Minions: The Rise of Gru Review: A stylized, but subpar return for the Minions
Illumination brings the Minions back for another adventure with Minions: The Rise of Gru but struggles to decide if it’s a Minions sequel or a Despicable Me prequel.
The film sees the Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) now working under a young Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), who dreams of being the greatest supervillain the world has ever seen. Although Gru is far from the days of him becoming a world-renowned villain, there are already some signs of what’s to come for Gru. Within the opening moments of Gru and the key trio of Minions (Bob, Kevin, and Stuart) doing some nefarious deeds around the town, there are plenty of fun callbacks and some delightful moments of villainy that fans will easily enjoy. Just seeing the Minions under Gru’s watch again feels like a warm return to the early days of Despicable Me and there are some fun moments with young Gru and the Minions as they take on a new challenge.
Just in his first big days of villainy, Gru is offered the chance to join the Vicious 6, a prolific team of supervillains. However, he ends up being on the wrong side of their radar after he steals a prized possession of theirs forcing him to team up with an old school villain named White Knuckles (voiced by Alan Arkin). Overall, the action and comedy that Illumination provides can be very solid as they continue to show why they’re a noteworthy force in animation. The film being heavily inspired by the 70s in both its distinctive flowing color palette and references to kung-fu and action movies of the time gives this sequel a great visual identity. The James Bond styled opening is a lot of fun and there’s a great amount nods to that era that elevate the action and comedy.
However, the film is too divided in figuring out if it wants focus more on the Minions or craft a true Despicable Me prequel and ends up squandering both opportunities. Those going in hoping for just endless Minions shenanigans will find that there’s just not enough of them. There are some really good sequences that just let the Minions off the leash and create funny moments, but they don’t feel like a prominent part of the story. They are basically secondary to Gru for most of the film even though this is supposed to be their movie and just get thrown back into being a shoved-in side characters for comedic effect, which doesn’t always work.
As for Gru’s story, the film is just trying too hard to make connections to Despicable Me and doesn’t create much depth for the story. A lot of times, there are little nods and references just thrown in to create a connection to Despicable Me and while it’s cool that the film even tries to establish where Gru and Dr. Nefario’s (voiced by Russell Brand) dynamic began, it’s nothing too special. Even the connection that’s made between Gru and White Knuckles lacks much depth outside of a weak mentor role. It’s fun to see Gru’s humble beginnings as a supervillain, but the story that ties it together is incredibly thin to the point where it just feels like comedic ideas crudely stitched together.
A lot of what’s shown with Gru, the Minions, and the Vicious 6, who are pretty unremarkable, doesn’t really come together to create a cohesive story. Everything with Minion Otto comes off like runtime padding because of how little it has to do with what’s happening. Gru and White Knuckles bond feels forced and there isn’t much of a theme or takeaway from their story. Even the more dramatic aspects of the film’s final moments don’t land as well emotionally because of how little depth was established in their story. The film even wastes an opportunity to have the Minions take control of the story and instead just throws them into a kung-fu training sequence that just feels like lazy nostalgia. Honestly, without the 70s vibes and some of the comedic bits, Minions: The Rise of Gru would be pretty hollow and forgettable because of how lackluster its story and ideas are.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is a subpar follow-up to Minions and a forgettable entry in the Despicable Me series because of its lack of story and focus only to be slightly saved by some of its funnier moments and nostalgic style.