Movie Review: Minions – The Rise of Gru

One-liner: a funky refresh injects energy into this wacky more-of-the-same retro animated action adventure prequel.

Minions: The Rise of Gru does what the cereal box says it does. It has Minions and tells the as yet untold story of a pre-teen’s ambition to become a supervillain. Minions and Despicable 3 director Kyle Balda is joined by Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val for this prequel, which rewinds to the groovy 70s. Having voiced Gru all along, the animated comedy adventure keeps Steve Carell on as Young Gru with Pierre Coffin reprising his role as the voice of The Minions.

As an origin story, it’s a strange brew trying to give equal weighting to Gru and his favourite three minions: Kevin, Bob and Stuart. While we may eventually figure out where the minions do get their unlimited supply of denim dungarees, this zany prequel gets to grips with Gru’s strange childhood, growing up aspiring to join a notorious group of supervillains known as the Vicious 6.

Playing into the trademark comedy elements of the series, Minions: The Rise of Gru doesn’t venture far off the beaten track. Set in the 1970s, the retro refresh is welcome as it taps into some fun trends and fashion of the times. From pet rocks and headbands to the popularity of kung fu, this animated adventure keeps things light and predictably frothy, lacing the story with gags to poke fun at its assortment of oddball characters. Expanding the universe back in time, there are some clever nods to other origin stories but for the most part, it’s more of the same crazy minion antics with Gru trying to maintain all due respect.

minions rise of gru

“Bolder and bleaker is so in right now, you know, for supervillains.”

Minions: The Rise of Gru is geared more towards colourful and zippy kids entertainment, but is breezy and silly fun for the young-at-heart too. A healthy dose of 70s nostalgia embroidered by Michelle Yeoh and Alan Arkin’s presence helps ground and legitimise things. Taking the pop culture inside references a step further, the prequel commandeers the voice talents of Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude van Damme, Lucy Lawless and Danny Trejo to make up some of its Vicious Six team. As fun as its casting is, this Minions prequel is at its funniest when it completely cuts loose from reality with its yellow TicTac-shaped heroes.

The prequel threatens to lose all control when an ancient artefact triggers magical transformations but this fun franchise shirks all preconceptions and plays by its own rules. Only indebted to its fans, Minions: The Rise of Gru is an eye-popping amusement, an epic ode to pop culture and over-the-top silliness in a constant pursuit of happyness. While it’s difficult to fault its pure escapist ambitions to entertain, the Minions will have to come up with a much better concept to keep things fresh.

As expected, the animated visuals are crisp and imaginative, even if the character design has some similarities with the equally wacky quiz game, Buzz. If you’ve seen a Minions movie before and enjoyed it, there should be enough impetus to get you through this adventure. It’s more of the same but for some, the infectious nuttiness of the Minion tribe never gets old.

The bottom line: Fun

splingometer 6