Minions The Rise Of Gru movie cast: Voiced by Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Russell Brand, Danny Trejo, Julie Andrews
Minions The Rise Of Gru movie director: Kyle Balda, with Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val
Minions The Rise Of Gru movie rating: 3.5 stars
Those pesky little banana-loving, gibberish-spouting yellow critters return in ‘Minions: The Rise Of Gru’, and what a lark this new outing turns out to be, exactly what a nippy, cheerful, fun summer film ought to be.
The fifth instalment (if you’re counting) of ‘Despicable Me’ gives us an 11-year-old Gru (Steve Carell), who desperately wants to be a super villain. Easily done, you’d think, given that Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) has fallen from grace, and The Vicious Six gang, the worst villains in the world, is looking for someone new.
Gru, who can release the stinkiest fart bombs to empty out a full theatre, or freeze customers at a crowded store to get ahead in the line, is totally convinced that he is the goods. Alas, Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson), the brand-new leader of the Vicious Six is not impressed; nor are the other gang-members who don’t have much to do other than just hang about and growl when required.
This is a film which wants the adult/s accompanying kid/s not to keel over in boredom, which is pretty much what happens when cute little animated creatures go about their business spreading deathly heaviness. Here you smile at the punny names — Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme) with a giant machine lobster for an arm, Nun Chuck (Lucy Lawless), a nun who uses a nun chucks, and a whole bunch of 70s pop culture references (the film is set in the early 70s) — a radio belts out ‘Funky Town’, a movie-hall plays ‘Jaws’, tall afros and wide bell bottoms abound.
The kids can laugh at the more kiddie jokes, and this is where the minions come in. Our old pals Stuart, Bob and Kevin are joined by the peskier, younger Otto. It’s hard to hand out distinct personalities to what are, in essence, just blobs of bright yellow who squeak instead of speak. But within a few minutes, you can tell Otto from the others. He’s needier, for one: as soon as he sees a rock, the one thing minions love more than anything else, apart from bananas, he exchanges it for a precious gem that Gru has given him to keep safe.
So, there’s Gru and his faithful minions arrayed alongside Knuckles as they face off the Vicious Six. That’s your climax, which is about the only thing that doesn’t feel fresh: only the other week, there was your human vs dinosaur slugfest-in-a-townhall, a climactic trope that doesn’t ever seem to go away. The rest of it sparkles.
Gru, his neatness of aspect strangely never at variance with his desire to be a supervillain, is never quite truly evil. Nor are the minions. The bad stuff that they do is at the kindergarten level bad stuff, which you can wipe and wash and square away. Which is why we can have so much un-adulterated, unvarnished fun with them, and at them, even when they take over a plane and manage, after a series of heart-in-mouth moments, not to crash it—a pitch-perfect sequence which will appeal to kids and adults alike.
And this time around, the minions have a kung fu teacher (Michelle Yeoh) who teaches them to deal with the guys a notch worse than they are. But even the Vicious Six, despite their claws and fangs, remain quite likeable.
The animation is top-notch. Some scenes, especially those set in San Francisco — those up-and-down roads, the trams — are breathtaking. But the thing that really makes this thing sing is that each character feels alive, and for a franchise film whose characters are amongst the fastest-selling toys on the planet, that’s quite an achievement.