‘The Rise of Gru’ Lifts All Minions

1 Comment

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

Best Film Performances of the 2010s

1 Comment

CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.

More

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Despicable Me 3’ Plays to Its Strength Just Often Enough

1 Comment

CREDIT: Universal and Illumination

This review was originally posted on News Cult in June 2017.

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Pierre Coffin, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG for Off-Color Minionese Jokes

Release Date: June 30, 2017

“I miss the Minions,” Gru laments about halfway through Despicable Me 3. Ever since the 2010 release of the first in this series, missing the Minions could only ever be relative. But when those little yellow pills are not on screen, you feel it. They may be divisive, inspiring just as much ire as they do unbridled joy, but there is good reason why they have been the breakout characters. As much as they inspire little kids (and some adults) to babble incessantly in Minionese, they are not lacking in ingenuity. Indeed, their moments in the spotlight continue to be the most imaginative, inventive, and playful in the DM-verse. When in DM3 they stumble into a live singing competition and are forced to come up on the spot with a signature babbling version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” their versatile ability to think on their feet is as inspiring as ever.

Alas, this buoyancy is not present throughout, as directors Pierre Coffin (also the voice of most of the Minions) and Kyle Balda and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio commit the cardinal sequel sin of splitting up their characters into dispersed storylines. Gru (Steve Carell, having a ball as always), Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and the girls all head out to the European mash-up/Marx Brothers reference country of Freedonia to meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (Carell pulling double duty), but everyone has their own thing going on. The much more outwardly charming Dru tries to pull Gru back into a life of villainy to fulfill a family legacy, while Lucy is more focused on getting the girls (who have their own subplots that have essentially nothing to do with anything else) to really truly think of her as a mom.

The Minions’ storyline succeeds the most by following an instinct of loyalty and getting everyone back together. Dru is not the only one trying to drag Gru back to a life of crime, as his little yellow assistants commence an insurrection that results in a mass resignation. They ultimately wind up imprisoned (if you love the Minions, you will love seeing them become the ruling jailhouse gang), where they see the error of their ways and craft an impromptu aircraft out of prison toilets and washing machines. There’s that ol’ Minion ingenuity, implemented for the purpose of absurd goodness.

This is a busy movie, leaving little room for its ostensible villain to make much of an impression. This series has never really needed strong antagonists, as its most interesting conflicts have been more internal. But with the heroes all now mostly on the side of good, it would help if diamond thief Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) were more of a complementary counterpoint. Instead, he is just a bizarre presence sticking out like a sore thumb, with his defining characteristic being his fetishization of the ’80s.

There is a weird tension at the heart of Despicable Me 3. So much happens, but so much is left teased. The ending suggests that this has been one 90 minute-long trailer for the next real Dru-centric adventure. But really, the problem here is that there is not a strong enough capitalization on this series’ enduring sweetness. The girls are adorable, they love Gru, Gru’s a great dad, Lucy never needed to try so hard to be accepted, and the Minions are so, so loyal. Everyone is on the same side, thus why it is such a shame that they are not all in the same scenes as often as possible.

Despicable Me 3 is Recommended If You Like: Cramming as Many Plotlines as Possible Into 90 Minutes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Minions Blowing Raspberries