Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)
Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Release Date: July 1st, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Kyle Balda Actors: Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless, Pierre Coffin

 


 

C

harting the ‘70s upbringing of everyone’s favorite supervillain-to-be, young Gru (Steve Carell) idolizes the Vicious 6 (as if a rock band), a group of ultimate baddies who plot to become the most powerful supervillains of all time. Ironically, they’re already pretty handy at evading law enforcement, as well as the very specialized Anti-Villain League, while operating mostly in plain sight with destructive weaponry and custom vehicles – though their base is located deep underground, beneath a retail shop called Criminal Records. When the chief mastermind, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) – accompanied by cohorts Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), and Nunchuk (voiced by Lucy Lawless, and probably the most enjoyably ridiculous of the bunch) – seeks out the Zodiac Stone, which grants supernatural powers to its wielder, he’s quickly betrayed and supplanted. “Where’s your loyalty?”

This creates a vacancy on the team, allowing 11-year-old Gru to send in an application and receive an interview. After all, despite being a mere child (with marked aspirations for transgressions), Gru doesn’t seem to have too much to do; his mother certainly won’t miss him, and apparently neither will anyone in the neighborhood or in the classroom. “I want to be a supervillain!” Gru exclaims during career day at his elementary school – a location that is never again revisited, as if attendance is not mandatory or even advised.

Like before, it’s never explained how the antagonists have access to unlimited resources, technology, equipment, and skills (plenty of which wouldn’t exist in the ‘70s setting), let alone how Gru would also find himself accomplishing and inventing so much, all within the confines of his inordinately massive basement lair. He does have considerable amounts of slave labor in the form of the Minions, though they’re so hopelessly inept that it’s a wonder they’ve managed not to die off regularly – though it’s uncertain as to whether or not they require the same basic needs as humans (such as food and sleep). Most problematic of all, however, is the entire cast’s unchanging imperviousness to harm; since nothing is taken seriously (the Minions themselves are boneless, bloodless, organ-less, and seemingly indestructible), and every scene is tinged with comic relief, never once does a conflict present dramatic gravity. The entirety of Gru’s misadventures is utterly inconsequential.

Some of the humor is moderately effective, though it generally strives for light chuckles rather than belly-laughs; in its efforts to be cute rather than clever – full of Minion slapstick, costume changes, exposed yellow buttocks, parody singing, and squeaky gibberish – the film quickly grows tiresome. Fart jokes and high levels of cartoon violence (on par with The Three Stooges) tend to be the staples. Curiously, the opening titles mimic those of the James Bond series, making the most of Minion silhouettes, though target audiences likely won’t be well-versed on the now-relegated tradition of framing the outlines of nude women against psychedelic colors (as well as numerous other references to the era, such as Evel Knievel and the soundtrack).

“Evil is for adults!” Action-packed fights, road-trip shenanigans, a kidnapping subplot, and the painfully obvious, overwrought appeal to overseas audiences (including a treasure-hunting mission in Asia, kung fu training montages, and a showdown in San Francisco’s Chinatown – components that scream of a moneymaking product rather than art) compose the majority of this brisk yet meaningless sequel/prequel hybrid. Once again, there just isn’t enough substance here to fuel a feature-length endeavor. And it definitely doesn’t help that the monotonous approach to the characters’ schticks feels as if this has all been done before – which it has, in the four previous outings.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10