After a five-year hiatus since Despicable Me 3 in 2017, the mischievous little yellow creatures a.k.a. Minions are back… and just as I expected, it’s more of the same. Titled Minions: The Rise of Gru — the second prequel/spin-off series following Minions in 2015 — the movie was originally set to be released in 2020 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the first Despicable Me (2010). But the COVID-19 pandemic happened and the delay was inevitable, forcing the movie to push back to 2021 before finally settling down to 2022.
This time, Minions: The Rise of Gru takes us back to the late ’70s era in sunny California, where we get to learn about a 12-year-old Gru’s (voiced by Steve Carell) lifelong dream of becoming a supervillain. He finally gets his wish after the evil group known as the Vicious 6 is responding to his application.
Unfortunately, things do not go well after Gru fails to impress the members of the Vicious 6 during his interview session. However, he ends up stealing the precious stone from them and manages to escape with his Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin).
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Minions movie if there are no complications involved. Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the ousted leader of the Vicious 6 kidnaps Gru because he wants the stone back and it’s up to the Minions led by Kevin, Stuart and Bob to save their mini-boss.
Returning director Kyle Balda doesn’t attempt anything new here other than sticking to the same formula in Minions: The Rise of Gru. The story is simple and pretty much straightforward, where it relies heavily on gag-filled montage to keep the pace going. But the jokes are a hit-and-miss affair. Some of them are funny (the Roger Moore-era James Bond-like opening credits quickly come to mind) while some others are either stale or trying too hard (the would-be spectacular climactic finale feels strangely underwhelming).
Overall, Minions: The Rise of Gru could only muster a few chuckles here and there. Michelle Yeoh, who voiced a small role as a retired kung fu fighter-turned-acupuncturist, Master Chow is a nice addition here. Except for some of the training montage, where she teaches the three Minions the art of kung fu is no longer as funny as before after I watch the movie in its entirety. Perhaps it has to do with the montage that has been repeatedly shown in the trailer each time I went for a movie regardless of attending a press screening or paying for a cinema ticket.
The rest of the voice cast is energetic, notably Pierre Coffin’s typically zany turn as the Minions and Steve Carell reprising his signature role as Gru. Franchise newcomers Taraji P. Henson has a field day voicing the feisty Belle Bottom and so does Alan Arkin as Wild Knuckles.
Minions: The Rise of Gru looks visually striking as Balda successfully captured the colourful and groovy 1970s aesthetic. I guess (most) kids would likely enjoy this wacky adventure of Minions: The Rise of Gru while adults can spot some of the pop-culture references related to past movies (e.g. TV’s Mission: Impossible, Jaws and even Midnight Cowboy) and music (e.g. Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star” and Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good”) of the yesteryears.
Maybe it’s just me that either Despicable Me/Minions franchise has left me jaded after they keep repeating the same formula over and over again. Frankly, I’m surprised the franchise can last this long and if that’s not enough, there will be Despicable Me 4 currently set for a 2024 release.