You can’t have “Illumination” without “Minion”, and the loyal little yella fellas are back, up to their usual tricks while we learn how Gru got his start in the world of villainy.
While the last Minions movie was their origin story, this one is that of Gru. He briefly encountered the pill-shaped critters at its end, and this one more or less carries on from there. It’s now the mid-1970s, and things are groovy, but not within the ranks of the almost 12-year-old Gru’s favourite baddies, the Vicious 6. After their leader, Wild Knuckles (given voice by Alan Arkin), nabs the precious – and powerful – Zodiac Stone pendant at no small risk, he’s ousted by his five cronies.
This, of course, leaves a vacancy in the Vicious 6, unless they want to have to rebrand everything, which would be a real drag. So, Gru sees this as his big chance. Ah, but managing to snaffle a job interview, he’s hastily laughed out of the lair (deep beneath the very groovy Criminal Records – purveyors of fine popular, classical, jazz, funk and polka music). Obviously, they underestimated the pint-size proto-villain, who soon teams up with their erstwhile leader to exact revenge.
Meanwhile, our banana-hued buddies are variously up to their own things, from constructing Gru’s lair to road trips, flying airliners to playing dress-ups, and on to hosting a Tupperware (burp!) party and receiving martial arts training from an acupuncturist with a wicked way in kung-fu (Michelle Yeoh), the latter as they hope to contribute more as members of the Gru crew after one of their brethren screwed up and got them all sacked.
The Minions and “mini-boss” Gru story lines collide occasionally, before resolving nicely by the end, much the same way that Illumination’s Secret Life of Pets 2 did. That being said, there’s really not a huge amount of story going on here, especially on the Minion side, with their scenes more of an excuse for them to do what they do so well, which is basically vignettes of situational silliness. And we will never have an issue with that.
There are even occasional outbreaks of moving moments, none more than a funeral scene featuring this one’s big musical number. We’re not sure what Jagger and Richards will think of the Minions going their own style of gospel on the Stones classic You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but we’d hope that they’d raise smiles just like we did.
That’s not the only music, of course, with the movie’s period setting allowing plenty of fun tunes, ranging from classic disco bangers to The Ramones’ fab Blitzkrieg Bop. A few new suitably retro tracks pop up here and there, too, none finer than Ms Diana Ross teaming with our very own (erm, Australia’s, not STACK’s) Tame Impala for wild ‘70s throwback Turn Up the Sunshine, which spins during the end credits.
As is Illumination’s way, they’ve once again nabbed a killer voice cast. The usual suspects pop up such as Steve Carell, Julie Andrews and Russell Brand (yes, Doc Nefario’s a vital part of the party), joined by the likes of Arkin and Yeoh, plus the beautiful assemblage of Taraji P. Henson (going full-on Jackie Brown as Belle Bottom), Jean-Claude Van Damme, Danny Trejo, Lucy Lawless and Dolph Lundgren as the actively-recruiting remaining members of the Vicious 6.
“As is Illumination’s way, they’ve once again nabbed a killer voice cast.”
As is also Illumination’s way, they brilliantly bridge the gap between kid-appeal humour and plenty for the adults once again. Our test 11-year-old was grinning from ear to ear and giggling nonstop throughout the admittedly brief sub-90-minute runtime, and we really weren’t far behind him. Those James Bond styled credits, the Mad Magazine Richard Nixon gag and old school blaxploitation vibe certainly weren’t inserted for the kiddies.
These join various other references to classic pop culture and several connections to the movie that was set before (we so want a Scarlet Overkill lunchbox!) and afterwards – hmm, that banker looks familiar…
Oh yes, we also learn that Minions can, indeed, grow chest hair. We’re not exactly sure what to do with that information, but it certainly raised a hearty chuckle.
The other standout is the animation. The coolly stylised visuals carry over from the other Minions/Despicable Me movies, but there seems to be more attention to little details – check out how Minions bounce in the dojo head-versus-plank sequence for a fine example. Such genuinely amusing animation just adds to the overall experience of pure fun.
There’s been a bit of a backlash against the Minions in recent years, and we genuinely fail to see why – sheesh, lighten up, goodness knows the world needs it! They’re little purveyors of big dumb fun, and Minions: The Rise of Gru is a perfect vehicle for them to shine as if Ms Ross’s sun has been turned up to 11. Oh, and the Gru stuff is pretty cool, too!
In cinemas: June 23, 2022
Starring: The voices of Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Michelle Yeoh
Directed by: Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val