Minions The Rise Of Gru movie review: A spicy, happy, fun summer movie

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 Review: 3.5 stars

Those pesky little banana-loving, gibberish-squirting yellow critters return in “Minions: The Rise Of Gru,” and what a lark this new outing turns out to be, just what a spunky, upbeat, fun summer movie should be.

The fifth (if you count) of ‘Despicable Me’ features an 11-year-old Gru (Steve Carell), who desperately wants to be a super villain. Easily done, you might think, as Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) has fallen from grace and The Vicious Six gang, the worst villains in the world, are looking for someone new.

Gru, who can fire the stinkiest fart bombs to empty a packed room, or freeze customers in a crowded store to get ahead in line, is fully convinced that he is the goods. Unfortunately, Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson), the new leader of the Vicious Six, is unimpressed; neither are the other gang members who have little to do other than just hang out and growl when necessary.

This is a movie that wants the adult(s) accompanying the kids not to fall over with boredom, which pretty much happens when cute little animated creatures go about their business and spread deadly heaviness. This is where you laugh 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 chuck, and a slew of pop culture references from the 1970s (the film is set in the early 1970s) — a radio sings “Funky Town,” a movie theater plays “Jaws,” high afros and wide bell bottoms galore.

The kids can laugh at the more kiddie jokes, and this is where the minions come in. Our old friends Stuart, Bob and Kevin are joined by the peskier, younger Otto. It’s hard to dish out different personalities to what are essentially just bright yellow blobs that squeak instead of talk. But within a few minutes you can distinguish Otto from the others. For example, he needs more: as soon as he sees a rock, the one thing minions love more than anything but bananas, he trades it for a precious jewel that Gru gave him to keep.

So, there Gru and his loyal henchmen are lined up next to Knuckles as they take on the Vicious Six. That’s your climax, and that’s about the only thing that doesn’t feel fresh: recently there was your human-dinosaur brawl in a town hall, a climax that never seems to go away. The rest shine.

Gru, his neatness of appearance strangely never conflicting with his desire to be a super villain is never really bad. Neither do the minions. The bad things they do are bad things in kindergarten, which you can wipe and wash and get rid of. That’s why we can have so much unadulterated, unadulterated fun with them, even when they take over a plane and after a series of heart-in-mouth moments manage to keep it from crashing – a pitch-perfect sequence that will appeal to both children and adults.

And this time, the minions have a kung fu teacher (Michelle Yeoh) who teaches them to be worse with the boys than they are. But even the Vicious Six, despite their claws and fangs, remain quite nice.

The animation is top notch. Some of the scenes, especially the one in San Francisco – those up and down roads, the streetcars – are breathtaking. But what really makes this thing sing is that every character is alive, and for a franchise movie whose characters are some of the fastest-selling toys in the world, that’s quite an achievement.

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