I love the decade of the 1970’s which has some of my favorite films and certainly my favorite genre of music, disco (excluding the genre of film scores). And the second prequel film from Illumination’s Despicable Me franchise is jam-packed with both the music and references to the movies of my favorite decade. And while the film has some brilliant references to the wacky pop culture of the disco decade, it also relies too much on cheap laughs in its uneven script making it the least enjoyable of the franchise.

Minions: the Rise of Gru starts shortly after the previous film (2015’s Minions) ends, albeit the next decade (it seems they are taking their cue from the X-Men prequels by having each film in a different decade, which I guess the third film will be in the 80’s?). The minions are the henchman to an adolescent Gru (Steve Carrell) and living in his basement/lair, helping him scheme and execute his villainous plans.

However, a wrench is thrown into the mix when he is asked to audition for the Vicious 6, the most evil group of supervillains of their time.  These villains have brilliantly punny names that I won’t spoil for the other dads out there who want to experience these in the theater. They are voiced by some fairly big names, with the likes of Taraji P. Henson and Alan Arkin (Carrell’s frequent costar) leading the pack.

With the exception of Arkin’s character, the villains are as one dimensional as you’d expect, and even Arkin’s villain isn’t fully fleshed out. This is a pity, because part of making a great movie is having well-written villains. I have to think that some of their scenes were left on the virtual cutting room floor, otherwise it’s just the fruits of lazy screenwriting.

Eventually Gru finds himself kidnapped by one of the villains and the three main minions have to make their way to San Francisco to try and save him. Here they meet Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), an ex-karate instructor who makes her living as an acupuncturist. Yeoh is having a bit of a resurgence in the last few years with American audiences, with her roles in the amazing Crazy Rich Asians, the brilliant Shang-Chi, and the wildly successful Everything Everywhere All At Once. She is kind of type-cast here and gives a decent performance. Yet, like most of the characters in this movie, she doesn’t have any arc and exists just to push the plot forward and react to the cheap gags that the minions do.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Despicable Me film if it didn’t have Julie Andrews playing Gru’s mother. She is as delightful as ever, although her part is still very small.

As I mentioned earlier in the article, this movie LIVES in the 70’s, which means that the references to that decade are plentiful. These references range from subtle (the Bionic Man sound effect playing) to very overt (a guy straight out of Midnight Cowboy walking across the street yells, “I’m walkin’ here!”). Honestly, this was easily the most enjoyable part of the film for me.

As was hinted at earlier, this is easily the weakest of the series because its pretty weak script. It relies on really cheap laughs to please its audience. While there are some genuinely clever bits, overall I found most of the jokes to be less than great.

The Bottom Line

Minions: the Rise of Gru has some clever bits and can be heart warming in parts, but is easily the weakest of the franchise. The movie and music references are the best part, with the cheap gags being the worst.

  • Minions: the Rise of Gru