In 2010, the Minions arrived, babbling and bounding their way onto cinema screens in a whirl of banana yellow and denim. In the subsequent 12 years, they haven’t really left, thanks to the Despicable Me trilogy, their own spin-off movie, and now their latest caper, Minions: Rise of Gru.
Along the way, the Minions – and their erstwhile leader Gru (Steve Carell) – have made Illumination and Universal Studios more than $3.7bn (and, it should be said, become a cultural meme in the process). But after four films and numerous shorts, won’t they have run out of steam? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no. In fact, Rise of Gru jubilantly shows there’s life in the yellow boys yet, thanks to a buzzing adventure which showcases just why the franchise has proven so popular across the last decade.
It’s the summer of 1975. Jaws is on in the cinemas, tupperware parties are taking place across America, and a young Gru dreams of being a supervillain. Luckily for him, a vacancy in The Vicious Six – a group of dastardly, brilliantly named supervillains – has been made available thanks to the unceremonious dumping of Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), and Gru thinks he’s just the megalomaniac to fill it. To some extent, that’s the entirety of the undeniably thin plot.
Indeed, Rise of Gru is really just a compilation of quite brilliant vignettes. From the ripping chase and adventure yarn which opens the film through to a superb comic interlude on a plane, and onto the final fight, which is visually akin to the anime-inflected Turning Red, the film is packed with excellently judged scenes. Often at the centre of this are the Minions themselves – able to easily evince laughs and act as an emotional crutch where needed.
But the fun of the film comes from the cavalcade of colourful characters around them. This is particularly true of The Vicious Six themselves, with villains including the lobster-loving Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), speed-skating Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), Nun-chuck (yes, a Nun who wields nunchucks, voiced by Lucy Lawless), iron-fisted Stronghold (Danny Trejo) and the leader of the group, Belle Bottom (voiced with real relish by Taraji P Henson).
Chuck in the sage kung-fu teachings of Master Chow, courtesy of Michelle Yeoh, and of course the cackling brilliance of Carell’s voice acting, and the film’s desire to pass by in an excitable blur is clear to see. Of course, if you aren’t amenable to the Minions, or are generally disgusted by Despicable Me, there will be little new in here to change your mind. But for everyone else, it’s a huge amount of fun.