You can’t help but be charmed
by the current of weirdness
that washes through the computer-animated “Despicable Me”
Take, for instance, “Minions:
The Rise of Gru” — the second prequel to the
main movie series and
the sequel to 2015’s
“Minions” — which
debuts Friday in theaters.
It introduces a collection of colorful new
villains, including Jean
Clawed, who’s voiced by
Jean-Claude Van Damme,
and Nun-chuck, a Lucy
who, yes, is a nun-chuckswielding nun.
Yet while a young
version of the series’ antihero,
Gru (voiced, as always, by Steve
Carell), is front and center in this
romp, the draw continues to be
the Minions. The odd but obedient little yellow fellows — voiced
distinctly and cleverly again by the
uniquely gifted Pierre Coffin —
are worth the price of a ticket.
After an adventure that ultimately landed them in the late
1960s, we meet back up with
them, serving a nearly 12-year-old
Gru, in the mid-’70s.
Gru worships a daring supervillain team of the day, the
Vicious 6. In the movie’s opening minutes, the group
travels to Asia to steal
a powerful item known
as the Zodiac Stone.
After the gang’s leader,
Wild Knuckles (Alan
Arkin), narrowly escapes
with it, another member, the Afro-sporting
Belle Bottom (Taraji
P. Henson), snatches it
from him and literally
cuts him out of the
team, filling the sudden
leadership void herself.
Gru is thrilled when he’s granted a chance to interview for the
opening with the Vicious 6 and
excitedly heads for an interview in
their secret lair within the music
store Criminal Records. There,
Gru meets a future associate,
then-aspiring mad scientist Dr.
Nefario (Russell Brand), but the
interview is a bust.
However, in hopes of impressing Belle Bottom and company,
Gru swipes the Zodiac Stone.
Instead, that puts him in their
crosshairs and leads him to his
favorite baddie, Wild Knuckles,
who becomes his mentor.
Meanwhile, the familiar Minion
trio of Kevin, Stuart and Bob
are worried about Gru and try
to catch up with him, while a
new minion character, the larger,
almost-round and highly chatty
Otto tries to redeem himself after
Others contributing voice
work includes Michelle Yeoh
(“Everything Everywhere All
at Once”), as Master Chow, an
acupuncturist who tries to teach
kung fu to Kevin, Stuart and
Bob; and Julie Andrews (“The
Sound of Music”), who returns as
“Minions: The Rise of Gru”
is directed by Kyle Balda, who
helmed “Minions” and 2017’s
“Despicable Me 3,” with help from
co-directors Brad Ableson (“The
Simpsons”) and Jonathan Del Val
(“The Secret Life of Pets”). The
screenplay is by Mattew Fogel,
with Brian Lynch and Fogel sharing credit for the story.
Along with Chris Meledandri
— founder of the production
company behind the films,
Illumination — and others, they’ve
shaped another adventure that
is constantly entertaining, never
more so than when the Minions
are being, well, Minion-y.
Early on, after a school career
day in which Gru announces to
his snickering classmates that he
wants to be a supervillain, he and
the boys empty out a theater to
watch “Jaws,” have a blast playing
their own versions of pinball, PopA-Shot and Whack-A-Minion,
er, Whack-A-Mole and delight in
eating ice cream in front of folks
on exercise bikes.
“Gru” is a little less successful
when it comes to telling a compelling story. Although a sweet
moment or two is shared by Gru
and Knuckles, the new characters — most noticeably Belle
Bottom — aren’t well-developed.
That’s one reason why the story
told here — as with the previous
“Despicable” tales — likely will
prove to be pretty forgettable.
Ultimately, the Minionfueled gags are enough, such
as when our fearless trio takes
the place of a flight crew and
attempts (yikes) to fly a passenger jet to San Francisco. We
won’t spoil all the fun, but be
aware it is one of at least two
instances where you’ll get a peek
at bare Minion behind.
Well, with no ifs, ands or
buts, we can say this is another
clever, weird and, again, entirely
Meszoros writes for
Tribune News Service.