‘The Rise of Gru’ Lifts All Minions

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Minions: The Rise of Gru (CREDIT: Illumination Entertainment & Universal Pictures)

Starring: Pierre Coffin, Steve Carell, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Arkin, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews

Director: Kyle Balda

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rating: PG for Death-Defying Cartoon Action

Release Date: July 1, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: It’s 1976, and those tiny tater tots with a seemingly endless supply of denim are headed to the city by the bay! The Minions are already living with their “mini boss” Gru (Steve Carell), though he’s only 11 years old and thus not yet exactly the bigshot supervillain we met in the original Despicable Me. But he’s eager to prove himself, and he gets his chance when a spot opens up in the villainous collective the Vicious 6. He ends up running afoul of them and then gets kidnapped by Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin, in a Little Miss Sunshine reunion) the Vicious member who was kicked out. But that’s all just an excuse for anarchic shenanigans! Because Kevin, Stuart, Bob, Otto, and the rest of the loyal yellow crew (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) are on their way to San Francisco to save Gru and get up to plenty of nutty business along the way.

What Made an Impression?: I’m an unabashed fan of the Despicable Me franchise, especially the Minions, so rest assured that what I’m about to say should not be taken lightly: This just might be the best entry in the entire franchise. What we have is the platonic ideal of what this type of cartoon should be, i.e., boundlessly joyous chaos. The first Minions spinoff had the weight of an origin story to take care of before it could just get to the gags. You might think that this outing is now an origin story for Gru, as it is called The Rise of Gru after all. And it is that, certainly, but it’s all in service of the Minions being the fullest, most delightful versions of themselves.

What does that mean, exactly, you might be wondering? Well, primarily it means they get to speak their motor-mouthed brand of unique gibberish, which has me automatically cackling whenever Dru or anyone else can somehow understand what they’re saying. It also means that they hijack a commercial plane with no repercussions in the most hilariously madcap manner imaginable! They learn kung fu and in the process discover that they’re basically indestructible! A few of them are transformed into animals, which somehow leads to the birthing of a baby Minion chicken! And they cap it all off with an unforgettably beautiful Minion-ish rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Which is ironic, because this movie gave me just about everything I wanted.

I also must mention that one Minion adorably falls in love with a pet rock! Remember pet rocks? They were big in the 70s. Speaking of the 70s, this movie has a killer soundtrack featuring modern artists making their own renditions of the era’s disco, funk, and rock classics. St. Vincent heading to “Funkytown,” anyone? Heck, yeah!

I did have one concern, though, that I feel compelled to bring up: where was Dru’s twin brother Gru? Shouldn’t he have been present during this period of their life? Maybe that was all explained in Despicable Me 3 (I do recall Gru being a sibling of the “long-lost” variety and all), and I just need to rewatch that. It’s not a big deal, just something that popped into my head amidst all the mayhem.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is Recommended If You Like: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Secret sibling languages, Non-stop disco dance parties

Grade: 4 out of 5 Bananas

Where Are We Going?! ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ Review!

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

The best parts of Dora and the Lost City of Gold are when Dora goes to high school, and I kind of (actually more than kind of) wish a lot more of the movie took place there. Now, I generally have a rule that I do not criticize a movie for what it isn’t, instead preferring to grapple with what it actually is. But when the movie itself gives us a preview of what it could’ve been, I think it’s valid to wonder “what if?”

I’m a sucker for fish-out-of-water scenarios and recontextualization, and Dora’s enrollment into Los Angeles’ secondary school system is a textbook example. It’s very Mean Girls-esque, but tonally reversed, as Dora is too unflappably peppy and resourceful to ever be consumed by the darkness of high school pettiness. Instead, she is going to win over everyone eventually by sheer force of will, and Isabela Moner is absolutely up to the task. And let’s be clear: she’s not naive. She knows her classmates make fun of her for singing about her backpack and other aggressive idiosyncrasies, but she is just so sure of herself that she can’t be anyone else, and that is a quality I admire more than just about anything. When her school has a “Dress as Your Favorite Star” dance, you get the sense that she actually does understand that “star” means “celebrity,” but she nevertheless chooses to dress as the Sun, so that’s pretty awesome.

Anyway, Dora and some friends get kidnapped, then they go searching for her missing parents in the jungle, and that’s the majority of the movie. It’s a family-friendly Indiana Jones, and you’ve probably seen this sort of adventure dozens of time before. But never before with Danny Trejo voicing a monkey.

I give Dora and the Lost City of Gold a Grade of “Delightful!” Encantadora! Can you say, “Encantadora”?