I was 13 years old when I first saw Despicable Me and I absolutely loved it.
So, it made perfect sense to me that Universal would keep making more films with Gru–Mr. Despicable himself, played by the amazing Steve Carell–and his loveable yellow minions, the… uh… Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin, which has earned him my respect). In fact, the Minions were loved by so many that they even got their own movie without Gru, appropriately titled Minions.
But I’m not going to lie. I did not enjoy the first Minions movie. Maybe it came with age or more “grown-up” interests but, after following the tiny creatures around for 91 minutes, I found them incredibly annoying. (In fact, I thought my enjoyment of this franchise ended with Despicable Me 2.)
So, admittedly, with the release of its sequel, Minions: The Rise of Gru, I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy myself… but I did.
Set in the 1970s, Minions: Rise of Gru sees a young Gru as he wants badly to be a part of the Vicious 6, a group of super criminals who have just ousted their leader, Wild Knuckles. But, when things go horribly wrong, Gru and his Minions are forced to go into hiding as they’re hunted by the Vicious 6. Running for their lives, they find help in an unlikely ally in Wild Knuckles and they team up to save their lives.
Genuinely clever with its humour, Rise of Gru has many laugh out loud moments. (Even the sillier jokes gave me one of those “forcefully let air out your nose” laughs that made the auditorium full of kids and their parents roar.) The Minions are always at their best when they’re interacting with Gru, and maybe that’s why I found this movie more enjoyable. It reminded me of something I feel like we forget when deciding whether a movie is good or bad: if its target audience likes it, no matter how badly that we think it is done, it has done its job.
The film also made me pause and consider a few things. First, it reminded me how hard animators work. While animation continues to impress, I have to take a moment to acknowledge those who worked on this movie because I just thought it was so beautiful. Secondly, I am reminded that Taraji P. Henson is a fantastic voice actor. The whole cast was great but Henson really stands out here as the villainous Belle Bottom. While I’m more accustomed to seeing her as Cookie on Empire()or just herself in interviews or hosting the BET Awards), Henson really embodies that villain role and created a character that sounds distinct from every other one we’ve seen her play. Job well done. Finally, I realized that Gru’s mother has been voiced by THE Julie Andrews this entire time?! She has made herself relevant to every generation, and I love that for her (and for us).
As a true prequel to Despicable Me, Minions: The Rise of Gru not only shows Gru’s origins, but also what some other characters from the past were up to during this time period. I grew up loving cartoons and something that got me really excited as a kid was seeing situations in one movie or TV show iteration crossover into another. These sort of interactions made me understand the world of the characters better. (In fact, this is why Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed remains my favourite film to this day. Seeing random monsters that the gang had fought before allowed 7-year-old me to view it as a continuation of those stories and excited me that they even remembered they had created those monsters in the first place.) This meant even more to me when I grew up and so, to me, the inclusion of random details created by other people showed that they cared about the story and their audience. As a viewer, I appreciated The Rise of Gru taking its time to concretely link itself to the other movies and know that young fans of the franchise will find that fun too.
Minions: Rise of Gru is available in theatres on Friday, July 1st, 2022.