Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 28 minutes, Director – Kyle Balda
After stealing a powerful jewel from his favourite supervillain team, nearly-12-year-old Gru (Steve Carell) finds himself kidnapped, with only his team of minions (Pierre Coffin) to save him.
Back in 2015 when the minions embarked on their first spin-off feature outing my favourite joke in a film that made me consistently giggle like I was seven-years-old didn’t actually involve the small dungaree-donning yellow figures which have become a source of confusion and irritation to many. As the film’s villain Scarlet Overkill flies into an arena packed with villains she proclaims “look at all those faces out there. We are all so different, yet we have one thing in common”. Cut to a figure who can only really be described as a ‘human fish’ who proudly leaps onto his chair, punching the air and declaring in a gargling voice “we were born with flippers!” Only to realise he’s alone, sitting back down with an increasingly quiet “no? Just me? Ok…” It was perhaps nobody’s favourite joke in that film apart from mine. A quick, silly moment that reduced me to fits of chuckles. It’s this style of slightly cartoonish humour which has perhaps brought much appeal to the minions over the years, since their first appearance as Gru’s henchmen in 2010’s Despicable Me.
It’s also the kind of humour that continues to work best for them as they allegedly lead their second feature outing, at least the film is still lead by their name. Moments where central trio Kevin, Bob and Stuart (all minions voiced by Pierre Coffin) steal a commercial flight, or simply flight in traditionally slapstick manner with various screams, clangs and yelps are where the film works best. Simply displaying its various gags and jokes in the moment and allowing the title characters to behave as they usually do. It creates a handful of chuckles and certainly helps lift up the film above some of the more predictable gags and references to the wider Despicable Me franchise which are scattered throughout, as a whole the film feels more like Despicable Me prequel than a Minions-led feature.
This feeling particularly settles in as 11-and-three-quarter-year-old ‘Mini Boss’ Gru (Steve Carell) finds himself kidnapped after stealing a powerful jewel from his supervillain idols the Vicious 6. A group with amusing pun names such as Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless) and Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) – it’s just a shame they don’t quite live up to their names, both in terms of comedy and general presence. While the film tracks the aforementioned trio of minions trying to free Gru and get him back home it continuously cuts back to him in the house of his favourite villain Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), also trying to find the valued jewel with transformational powers. Therefore, with noone else being certain of where the jewel is, bring in Otto, a larger minion eagerly intent on serving his boss, riding and chasing across America to try and track it down. It’s certainly the most side-plot feeling element of the film, and works better that way. But, it also brings in a busier feeling to the overall film, already holding what feels like two core plot-threads.
At only 1 hour and 28 minutes this is a fairly short film, but it certainly tries to pack a lot in. Particularly in regards to the feeling that much of the narrative is assembled together with different ideas, events and moments before moving onto the next situation the minions can have a scrap in. Certainly, the scraps and gags are amusing, they keep the film moving along fairly well and provide a number of chuckles along the way. Perhaps not on the same hit rate as the previous instalment, with some being a bit more predictable than others, but there’s still an appreciation towards the near-chaos that’s delivered on-screen by the not-quite-multilingual figures. In many ways they are the saving grace of the film, amongst the familiarity of the various plot elements, and some of the gags the titular minions are very much present to come in and bring a handful of chuckles to help move things along. When at its silliest and allowing gags to move the narrative along the film is very much at its best, not bogged down by the rest of its elements. Perhaps the strongest positive thing to take away from this is that amongst all the social media memes, irony, twistings of initial memes, TikTok trends (the story of the screening I attended for this is one for another time!) and more the minions are still capable of being funny by simply doing their usual silly schtick as if none of that other stuff exists – the best way to go about this kind of thing!
Feeling more like a Despicable Me prequel than a Minions spin-off The Rise Of Gru get slightly bogged down by its various ideas and plot threads, however when allowing the minions to simply be silly and lead moments by themselves there are a fair few chuckles to help move things along and create amusing enough viewing.