was a sleeper hit that has since morphed into not only being one of the most profitable film franchises ever made, but also being the largest earning animated franchise of all time. With hit after hit including its sequels
, the franchise also managed to spawn a spin-off
that featured the Gru's ubiquitous yellow "henchmen". Minions: The Rise Of Gru is the widely anticipated sequel to this spin-off series.
Director Kyle Balda, who co-directed Despicable Me 3 and Minions alongside Pierre Coffin, is going solo this time as he delves into the origin story of the minions (it is a surprisingly simple and amusing one) and explores Gru's childhood. Minions: The Rise Of Gru is aptly named, it chronicles the rise of Gru from a "weird" kid in school - the kind that answers "supervillain" when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up - to the impressive anti-hero he is in the Despicable Me films.
The year is 1976, and the almost twelve-year-old Gru (Steve Carell) is being aided by the titular minions in plotting to accomplish his goal of being a supervillain. Gru's plan is to become the newest member of the Vicious Six after their founder and leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) is usurped and thrown out of an airplane by their new leader, Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson). Gru hopes to impress the five remaining members - disco girl Belle Bottom, the lobster-claw-wielding Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the aptly-named nunchaku-wielding nun Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless), roller-skating warrior Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), and the metal-handed giant Stronghold (Danny Trejo).
Alas, fate has other plans, as Gru has to chase after a legendary artifact known as Zodiac Stone. Accompanied by minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob and Otto (Pierre Coffin), Gru has to face moustachioed thugs, dangerous vehicles, weaponry, and even magic in his quest to retrieve the Zodiac Stone. Of course, things are not how they appear to be, and there might be more parties interested in the powerful stone.
Path-breaking comedy isn't the expectation from the Despicable Me franchise. The USP of the series is bags of goofball humour with heart, and the cute shenanigans of the minions. The Rise Of Gru serves a heapful of both those things, along with long-running gags, puns aplenty, and over-the-top cartoon violence. The animation is a visual spectacle, the action sequences are tightly crafted, and the movie also packs in plenty of moments that would make both kids and their parents (and everyone else who is a fan of these films) go "aww".
Quite cleverly, The Rise Of Gru also manages to learn from its past mistakes, and introduces two simultaneously running sub-plots in its breezy, barely one-and-a-half-hour running time. One has to do with the aging Wild Knuckles' feeling of being betrayed, and the other one features the minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob trying to learn kung-fu from their master, the acupuncturist Chow (Michelle Yeoh). The Rise Of Gru expertly weaves in these sub-plots into the narrative as it creates a cohesive storyline. The lack of urgency we felt in the long, meandering plots of the previous movies is all but gone - every scene feels like it has purpose.
The Rise Of Gru also gives us a clever insight into its recurring characters' hearts. Gru, for example, has always been somewhat of a hero despite his penchant for being a supervillain. He is already a father figure to the minions as a child, which perfectly ties into his father-figure role for Margo, Edith and Agnes that audiences have come to love. The minions each has their own character - with their clumsy theatrics being the highlight of the film.
Steve Carrell does the voice of an eleven-and-three-quarters-year-old surprisingly well, and the eastern European accent is back at a little higher pitch. The Vicious Six are all well-cast, but veteran actors like Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren and Danny Trejo don't have much to do. Taraji P Henson's Belle Bottoms delivers most of the speaking lines, but her character feels more like a high school bully than a supervillain. Alan Arkin has an interesting role, and his banter with Carell is entertaining. Russell Brand and Julie Andrews reprise their roles as characters we've already seen - both have brief but impactful appearances.
Alongside top-notch animation, The Rise Of Gru also features great music. Heitor Perrera's score is completed by a plethora of bands and artists - including Tame Impala, Brockhampton, St. Vincent, Kali Uchis, Caroline Polachek and RZA (who also appears as a biker that the minion Otto befriends). Funk, pop, rock and soul are all utilised along with covers of past hits to create a unique sound for the movie.
I'll be honest with you here - I walked into the theatre with trepidation, expecting yet another cash-grab franchise film. The Rise Of Gru was, however, surprisingly entertaining. Fun for the whole family, this one is an easy recommend.