“Minions 2: The Rise of Gru” is set in 1976. I would have laughed my six-year-old self silly and requested to see it again and again if I had seen it when I was six years old. Alas, I’m no longer a child. However, I’m still very much the same age as when I first started taking it. As a result, this latest (and hopefully final) chapter in the Despicable Me Universe (DMU) felt tailored to my less developed aspects. It was as if a checklist had been made with me in mind.
Readers of this site are aware of my affinity for the Minions, those yellow, pill-shaped troublemakers who are fiercely dedicated to Gru (Steve Carell). They make me laugh, and I have no shame about it. After their own prequel, “Minions,” and a detour for the disappointing present-day sibling rivalry plot of “Despicable Me 3,” Kevin Le Minion and his one-eyed and two-eyed friends have returned to the past to assist Gru, who is now 11 1/4 years old. He is known to his employees as “mini-boss.” When he’s not wondering how his staff acquired so much denim for their clothing, Gru is daydreaming about becoming a member of The Vicious 6, an Avengers-like group of baddies formed by Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin).
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In an exotic, Indiana Jones-style setting, we see Wild Knuckles and his crew in action. The Vicious 6 are after a necklace of gems known as The Zodiac Stones, which they believe holds the key to unlimited power on Chinese New Year’s Eve. After watching all of the needle injections in this series, I expected The Zodiac Stones to be followed by Floaters’ “Float On,” which is a trash classic-slash-astrology lesson. However, the filmmakers are not that bright. Granted, “Funkytown” was released in 1980, but “Minions: The Rise of Gru” employs Lipps Inc.’s 1980 hit twice instead of once.
Wild Knuckles is betrayed by team member Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) after braving death to get the stones, informing him that honor among thieves is a myth before dropping him from their plane to his presumed death. Belle’s wardrobe, which is always changing and features a huge Afro (which is animated with a lot of texture), looks like Cleopatra Jones. The other four members are named after puns. There’s Stronghold (Danny Trejo), a nunchaku-wielding nun named Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless), the Nordic strongman Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), and a guy with an enormous lobster claw for a hand. His name is Jean-Clawed, and he’s played by Steven Seagal. I was kidding about that! He’s voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who does the voice of J.
The Vicious 6—that is, the Five—are now seeking for a much younger replacement after eliminating the considerably older Wild Knuckles. The eponymous film’s heroine, Priya (Niveditha), applies for and is hired as a Cog in the Machine. He enters the archives to discover Belle Bottom’s hideout, meeting Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) along the way. With Nefario’s help, Gru enters the secret hideout and retrieves Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good,” which is the key to getting inside. Gru is sent home since he’s only in elementary school, but not before stealing the Zodiac Stones. Belle and her crew go after him in order to reclaim them.
There are actually three additional plot-heavy narratives in “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” One focuses on the Wild Knuckles’ San Francisco-based quest for vengeance, while the other is about the Minions learning kung fu from Master Chow ( Michelle Yeoh) to save Gru after he’s been kidnapped. Fortunately, this is not the case. In fact, it’s something that forces us to reconsider and rethink our personal value systems: Jake’s best attempt at saving his brother Gru from the clutches of Wild Knuckles fails because – when he doesn’t want them there – it proves how wonderful they are. When these two concepts are coupled together, what happens? Well, Gru has been kidnapped by Wild Knuckles in an effort to get back what was rightfully his. Otto, being the newest and most talkative of the Minions, swapped the jewelry for a rock pet. As punishment, Grue is made to endure a form of torture I’d gladly accept: he’s tied to a large record player that will play Andrea True Connection’s “More.
“Don’t demand ransom from my mother; she’ll likely pay you to keep me.” Gru’s vicious old lady is once again portrayed by Julie Andrews, who has no use for her son or his henchmen.
“Minions,” like “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” is a fast-paced film. This time, however, it’s somewhat less tiring and actually works to the picture’s benefit. The jokes arrive at a good pace, and the film does not provide the viewer with too much time to think about how ludicrous Matthew Fogel’s script is. The animation is stunning, from the beautifully crafted City by the Bay to the charming appearance of young Gru. He has large, powerful eyes that fill his “little gurls’ emotional faces.” Carell does a wonderful job making his Gru voice younger and less distinct. The cast sounds like they’re having fun, and their energy is infectious.
Even if you despise the Minions (who are now voiced in “Minionese” by Pierre Coffin), you might be able to stomach it. If you’re old enough to understand the 1976 references yet young enough to laugh at all the goofy slapstick, then there’s no better time than now to celebrate your inner 12-year-old. That is, unless this film becomes a massive success.
Writers: Matthew Fogel(screenplay by)Brian Lynch(story by)
Stars: Steve Carell(voice)Pierre Coffin(voice)Alan Arkin(voice)