“Minions: The Rise of Gru”—the fifth movie in the “Despicable Me” franchise—is now officially my favorite in the series. Naturally, the clever and charming Minions steal the show.
And what’s wonderfully fun is that we get to see Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) young, at that deliciously mischievous age of 11. One would think he would look like a kid but he actually looks like the kid version of Gru, with the start of his hunchback and pronounced hook nose, and naturally he’s focused, even then, on world domination.
He’s so career-driven that on career day, at school, he announces to the universe—“I want to be a supervillain!”—and wants to join the Vicious Six. Here’s Gru’s first test of friendship, where he questions if the Minions might harm his opportunity to join their evil ranks.
In terms of structure, the “Minions” sequel is more like a “Despicable Me” prequel. Here we are introduced to the mad scientist, Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), future rival Vector, and the Bank of Evil.
Of course, the Minions look up to their new young “mini-boss” and show it as often as they can, even though he’s no taller than they are at the moment. Meanwhile, Gru decorates his childhood bedroom (he still lives with mama Marlena, voiced by Julie Andrews) with pinups and action figures of the best baddies in the biz: Stronghold (Danny Trejo), Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless), Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). This is Gru’s beloved Vicious Six. We all know that truly evil supervillains can’t be trusted and midway through their latest daring heist—snatching the Zodiac Stone from a jungle hideout—Belle lets Knuckles fall to what looks like a grisly death.
But for Gru, it’s an opening and he asks to interview for the recently vacated spot. Of course, they laugh in his face reminding him that “evil is for adults” with Belle being particularly cruel. But Gru is dedicated to becoming one of their members and refuses to go home, and he steals the stone away from these adults forcing them into a high stakes game to get it back. The villains go after him with a vengeance and Knuckles (not dead) returns to recapture his spot and the prize.
Now, enter the Minions who Gru kind of adopts but he’s not sold on them right away because they are always messing things up, such as when Otta trades the magic stone for a pet rock. Naturally, Gru is shattered and fires all of them, which makes them work harder to get their jobs back.
Director Kyle Balda cleverly focuses on Otto and the beloved one-eyed Stuart, skinny Kevin, and mini-minion Bob who travel to Northern California after Knuckles kidnaps their master a.k.a. their mentor.
Balda supplies the fun. The San Francisco scenes are some of the very best where the Zodiac Stone’s power is unleashed and the Vicious Six take on scary animal forms—tiger, monkey, snake, dragon, etc. while the Minions are transformed into a “minion” version of a goat, rooster, bunny, etc.
There’s no reason to push into some of the script shortcomings because the movie is about tiny minions and a kid who dreams of being the world’s worst, or is it the best, villain in the world. What we need is fun and that’s exactly what “Minions: The Rise of Gru” delivers. Fun. Fun. Fun.