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‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ review

The Minions & Gru return for more madcap adventures.

Minions: The Rise of Gru
Credit: Universal Pictures UK

A worldwide marketing success of the highest order, The Minions has proven to be big business across the globe, with their popularity acting as a strong franchise base for animation house Illumination. So it was somewhat inevitable that we’d get another ‘Minions’ project on the big screen. It’s been a relatively long wait since their billion-dollar first solo movie in 2015. Since then we’ve had ‘Despicable Me 3’ in 2017 (another billion-dollar worldwide gross) and we now get a prequel movie titled ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’. The only problem is that The Minions don’t feature in this movie as much as they should. The end result is a mildly entertaining but overlong family adventure that trades on past glorious to stumble across the finish line.

In all regards, this isn’t really a Minions film, it’s a ‘Despicable Me’ prequel set in the 70s that focuses on the young boy Gru (Steve Carell), who seizes an opportunity to join a legendary gang of mega-criminals that he idolises. When the leader of the Vicious 6 Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) is ousted, Gru takes his place, but after a few choice mishaps he manages to anger the collective. Now on the run from them, he teams up with Wild Knuckles to seek guidance and perhaps an inspirational friend along the way, with his trusty Minions by his side and along for the zany ride too.

The first big problem with ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ is that it’s a quasi fourth ‘Despicable Me’ film, and sadly not a good one. The Minions aren’t the main characters here and audiences will feel quite short-changed with this. They have the odd good sequence (the one at the airport used in the trailer being a particular highlight), but its all just random gags scattered around. The choice to focus on a young Gru isn’t a bad one, but the story is quite underwhelming and doesn’t utilise its impressive vocal talent to full effect.

Aside from Steve Carell and the brilliant Pierre Coffin who voices all of the crazy Minions himself, the film boasts a truly special and eclectic ensemble with Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh, Taraji P. Henson, Danny Trejo, Jimmy O.Yang, Lucy Lawless, John DiMaggio, Will Arnett and RZA joining franchise regulars Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan and Russell Brand. These new additions to the film have a lot to offer but the film doesn’t give any of these characters anything to really do. In fact you’d struggle to even identify any of them given how poorly written the film is. ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ would have been a great deal more entertaining if it used these well-known talents properly and actually used their star-power to drive the narrative forward. The cast are all wasted here with the exception of Alan Arkin, but that’s because his role is much bigger.

The end result is a film that looks as wonderful as it usually does, but without any engaging story to grip you. The animation is crisp and the nods to the 1970s are well observed. But you need much more than just a painting-by-numbers story to get you from A-B, and utterly wasting its supporting cast is a ridiculously amateur move to make, especially this many years down the line. Unfortunately, ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ feels like an afterthought of a film that will test the resolve of even its younger audience members. It’s disappointing to see this as its clearly just a cash-in. The narrative element of Gru and the Minions story was what made these movies so entertaining. And if you call a movie ‘Minions’ perhaps focus on those crazy critters instead of making them a supporting character in their own film.

Cast: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh, Taraji P. Henson, Danny Trejo, Jimmy O.Yang, Lucy Lawless, John DiMaggio, Will Arnett, RZA Director: Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val Writer: Matthew Fogel, Brian Lynch Certificate: U Duration: 87 mins Released by: Universal Release date: 1st July 2022

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