The sequel to Minions, the spin off of the Despicable Me franchise, provides surface-level jokes, but not much more.
It’s hard to not love or at least be vaguely amused by Minions. The small, yellow creatures with a language of their own and a distinct love for bananas are comedy gold, so much so that the creatures – who first appeared in the Despicable Me films – got their own film in 2015.
And now, a sequel to that. The first Minions was surprisingly solid and its sequel, subtitled The Rise of Gru, is… fine. There’s nothing particularly egregious about The Rise of Gru, but the issues with the first Minions are somehow magnified here. The jokes are hit-and-miss, but there’s a nagging, overwhelming feeling of the film, and every narrative path within it, being disposable.
The film takes place in the 1970s as a young Gru (voiced again by Steve Carell) prepares to take over the world. Or at least join his favourite villain squad, the Vicious 6. Gru gets his hands on an ancient stone that holds magnificent powers, but the Vicious 6 want it too. Chaos ensues, as it always does.
You may ask where the Minions fit in in all of this. Gru is kidnapped and the Minions vow to find him, but as with the first Minions film, the cute, yellow creatures feel very much like extras in their own film. While they have clear personalities between the four Minions involved in this particular adventure, the film is too busy focusing on the human characters to really work this angle. Give the people what they want, give us more of Bob being cute! By not utilising the Minions themselves better, The Rise of Gru maintains its steady, but predictable course.
Because Minions don’t speak English, their entire entertainment value comes from slapstick comedy. It’s perfectly acceptable and will certainly appeal to the younger audience members, but there’s only so many times Stuart can hit Kevin before it gets a bit dull. Minions don’t really move the plot forward themselves; they simply latch on to a human character that will do it for them.
But kids will undoubtedly love The Rise of Gru. It offers nothing to the parents dragged into the darkness of the cinema, but there’s something about the universal comedic language of farts that’s rather joyous. The film is blatantly aimed at a very young audience, but it feels like a missed opportunity next to some of the more recent animated films that have managed to cater for both kids and adults with their complex storytelling and layered humour.
The voice cast, however, is absolutely stacked. Carell has made Gru’s voice recognisable and very unique, but the supporting cast is mightily impressive, if criminally underused. Vicious 6 is voiced by such legends as Taraji P. Henson, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Danny Trejo. They all utter a line or two, apart from Henson who has the meatiest, but still shallow, role of Belle Bottom.
But the biggest delight on offer here is Michelle Yeoh, who is having quite a year. The actress has got Everything Everywhere All At Once already under her belt for this year and another 5 projects coming this year, one of which is James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way Of Water. Yeoh voices a kung-fu master here in a brief, but memorable role.
Minions: The Rise of Gru doesn’t blow the roof off with its slapstick and immature jokes, but the sheer cuteness of the Minions will keep the wee ones busy and occupied. It’s predictable and forgettable, but somehow, I’ll never be angry about another film featuring Stuart, Kevin and Bob.
Minions: The Rise of Gru is in cinemas July 1.