The Austin Chronicle

Minions: The Rise of Gru

Rated PG, 87 min. Directed by Kyle Balda. Voices by Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Alan Arkin, Michelle Yeoh.

REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., July 1, 2022

When Despicable Me came out over a decade ago, not a single person could have expected the franchise to become the juggernaut it now is. The Minions are now as iconic as Scrat the Squirrel from Ice Age, a beacon of slapstick humor that unleashes waves of giggles from children and adults alike. Voiced by Despicable Me director Pierre Coffin, the Minions are the stars of the show, the bait that lures in swarms of families, all waiting to see what antics they get into next.

In Minions: The Rise of Gru, the little yellow banana-obsessed creatures are up to no good again, both helping and hindering an 11-year-old Gru (squeakily voiced by Steve Carell) enact his dreams of joining the exclusive villain gang the Vicious 6. When a spot in the crew opens up, Gru skips school to try out to replace his all-time favorite villain, Wild Knuckles (Arkin), but when he realizes his idealized heroes aren’t interested in his skills, he snatches their prized possession, the Zodiac Stone, and lands himself in a world of trouble.

Eventually Gru stumbles his way into teaming up with Wild Knuckles, and they somehow save the world while still getting classified as villains – a true triumph for everyone. Gru and Wild Knuckles’ mentor-mentee relationship comes at the right time in the film, when the stakes begin to dwindle (there’s only so much one can stretch out of a kung fu Minions montage, even with the lovely Michelle Yeoh’s voice as a guide). Wild Knuckles makes for a tough grandpa, the parental figure Gru never had to look up to.

What’s really genuine about all the Despicable Me films (three so far, and a fourth greenlighted) and Minions movies (this is the second) is the ongoing theme of self-made family. Gru is not only the leader of the Minions, but he’s also kind of like their father, because no ordinary boss would allow their underlings to tuck into his bed with him at night. As obnoxious and chaotic as they can be, the Minions give warmth to Gru’s heart.

While the addition of a tiny Gru makes this Minions sequel feel a bit more connected to the franchise as a whole, it would be a lie to say Gru and his surrogate grandpa steal the show. No, as always, it’s the Twinkie-shaped little guys who pack the punches, whether they are bringing mayhem to a plane ride or mooning the audience with their tiny little butts. Their charm is what continues to feed the franchise, and their mayhem brings endless glee. Minions: The Rise of Gru might not be sophisticated storytelling, but not all animated films have to be. Sometimes they can just be about joy.

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