Five years after the last “Despicable Me” film and twelve years after the first, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” extends the franchise without really rising to the challenge, providing a humdrum exercise with unusual 1970s music. It is likely to distract younger children whose humorous preferences include quick mumbling, pratfalls, the occasional exposed yellow butt, and flatulence.
Beginning with the year 1976 (it’s the bicentennial! ), the film incorporates a plethora of songs from the era, a detail likely to be mostly lost on the target audience, unless they’re particularly familiar with disco classics and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Of course, grandparents who accept the challenge of squiring their grandchildren will be rewarded with an unexpected trip down memory lane.)
The primary issue, and it is a huge one structurally speaking, is that director Kyle Balda and writer Matthew Fogel throw a variety of jokes against the wall, hoping that a few will stick, which they do while ignoring the plot.
Essentially, the premise is that eleven-year-old Gru (Steve Carell) is a young supervillain enthusiast who yearns for an opportunity to join the Vicious Six. They are introduced in an Indiana Jones-style action scenario in which they acquire a mystical artifact while unexpectedly dumping their ostensible commander, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), who swears vengeance.
Thus, Gru is caught between the two opposing factions, and he realizes that his devoted sidekicks may not be prepared to join the major leagues of criminality. “I’ll have to handle this on my own,” he tells them, bringing tears to their eyes (or eye).
Thus, Gru and the Minions embark on opposite paths, which contributes to the disjointed aspect of the tale, which is unhelpfully compressed into less than 90 minutes. That includes excursions to do things like practice kung fu (Michelle Yeoh, one of the few celebrity voices to register, appears inexplicably) while scattering allusions to the previous films, a mix that offers fairly widely spread moments of amusement.
“Minions” must be viewed in the light of its modest goals, such as boosting fast-food giveaways and toy sales, but even compared to the previous films in the franchise, this one appears especially limited in scope and ambition.
In spite of this, the timing may be ideal for the film’s delayed release, which, if confirmed, would be good news for animation in theatres after Pixar’s “Lightyear” failed to reach commercial success.
“The Rise of Gru” mostly relies on how visually appealing and adaptable its lead characters are, transforming them into a kind of slapstick-happy Three Stooges for our time.
Animation also makes it simpler to appeal to children’s sillier sides, an advantage over real-life clowns that, sadly, is not executed effectively enough to make them green with envy (or even yellow).
“Minions: The Rise of Gru” will be shown for the first time in the US on July 1. It’s a PG movie.
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