The Despicable Me franchise and the Minions spin-off have had relatively great success over the past decade and a half or so. These films have helped Illumination become one of the best animation studios in the business. Their version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Sing films are amazing. Like many animation studios, they like to cast the biggest names as voiceover talent in their movies. Steve Carrell is one of the best comedians in the business, so he was the perfect actor at the time to launch a new animated franchise, similar to Mike Myers in Shrek and Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda. The newest installment proves that theory true.
In Minions: The Rise of Gru, the story picks up with Felonious Gru (Steve Carrell) being a little kid with big dreams of becoming the biggest master villain of all time. His idol is a man named Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). He’s the leader of a super villain group known as The Vicious 6. They consist of Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Severance (Dolph Lundgren), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless, and Jean Clawed (Jean Claude Van Damme), in the best casting yet in this film. They have plans of their own to rule the world, so they release Wild Knuckles of his duties as the leader of the group. Gru wants to join them, so he inevitably gets mixed up in their scheme. With Gru comes his trusty Minions, Kevin, Bob, Stuart, and Otto. You know these guys are going to cause a major problem who mess with Gru, and that’s what happens.
I’m a sucker for films that take place in the ’70s. I love the whole ’70s vibe in this film. The clothes and cars, and hairstyles are all spot-on. Along with the look of the film also comes the music. This film has all the classic ’70s songs we’ve come to remember and more. The idea of this prequel film taking place in this period makes perfect sense. Having this film set here allows for a lot of creativity for the writers and director of the film. They knew they had a lot to play with. The animators worked well in this area as well.
The voiceover cast in this film is incredible. It’s always cool to try to pick out the various a-list celebrities the filmmakers have chosen to play the various roles in the film. The standouts include Alan Arkin and Taraji P. Henson as two members of the Nefarious 6. A few perfectly cast were actual tough guys and gals, namely Jean Claude Van Damme. He has a French accent and all. A couple of newer characters at this particular time in history are Dr. Nefario, voiced by Russell Brand once again, and Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), who’s having a great year so far. This voiceover cast is one of the strong points of a film with a lot of them.
This film has a James Bond vibe to it also that I loved. There is a cold opening just like a Bond film, and the whole villain vibe and so forth leans in on this entire aspect of spy films. Put that together with the ’70s vibe, and you have a very fun adventure film the whole family can get behind. The kids can enjoy all the Minions’ funny, wacky, zany antics while the adults can enjoy the spy stuff, the ’70s, and all the James Bond stuff. This film has a multi-layered approach to storytelling, and all of the subplots and various story beats work very well to help tell this early story in Gru’s life.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is a fun adventure film that leans heavily on a James Bond aesthetic while also being true to what the Despicable Me franchise has set up before. Five years have passed between films in this franchise, and it shows in the storytelling aspect. This entire film was well thought out and implemented to perfection. With a lead voice actor like Steve Carrell at the head, it shows what good thought can go into something, and it can work out in the end. The ’70s vibe and all that jazz were fun to watch. The villain aspect of the film is always a major plus. The Nefarious 6 were all pretty cool. And I loved hearing all the various voiceover cast cut it up throughout the film. Minions: The Rise of Gru was another entertaining addition to this already enjoyable long-time franchise.
4 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media