Review: Illumination’s ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’

Minions: The Rise of Gru (Illumination)

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” isn’t a top-tier animated movie. I don’t think anyone would label it as a classic, but if you enjoy the slapstick antics and the slightly vulgar humor of the other movies in the series, I think you’ll find it a fun time at the movie for your family.

When I say “slightly vulgar” don’t get alarmed. There’s some juvenile, rude humor that wouldn’t pass in polite company, but it will probably draw at least a chuckle from kids of all ages.

The film is a sequel to “Minions” but a prequel to the “Despicable Me” series that originally introduced the yellow globs of mischief known as the Minions as well as main character Gru, who is an adolescent villain-in-training in this movie.

Early on, Gru and the Minions are separated by a plot contrivance that basically gives the audience two storylines to follow. Minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) train with Master Chow (Michelle Yeah) an acupuncturist and Kung Fu expert, while Gru plots to join a super-villain group who advertises for a new member.

The two stories satisfactorily dovetail together in a cataclysmic fight between Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) his mentor-in-villainy Wild Knuckles (voiced by Alan Arkin) and the Minions against a group of super-villains known as the Vicious 6.

Wild Knuckles was the founder of the Vicious 6, but a mutiny leaves both him and Gru, on the outs with the nefarious group of baddies, now headed up by Taraji P. Henson’s Belle Bottom.

For me the most entertaining aspect of the movie is the fact that it is set in the 1970s and is bursting at the seams with pop-culture references from the era as well as a groovy soundtrack that runs the gamut of pop music from the time, including a hilarious scene where the Minions sing the chorus portion of the Rolling Stones’ classic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at a funeral.

The soundtrack, which goes on sale today, features modern artists and groups covering funk, pop, rock, and soul hits from the 1970s. I may have to track it down.

The film doesn’t wear out its welcome. It delivers the funny and a somewhat touching story of mentorship in a swift 88 minutes, which was just right for me and most of the kids who didn’t have time to get too cranky in the theater.

By no means is this a must-see movie in the theater or otherwise, but if you enjoyed the other movies featuring the Minions and Gru, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one, too.

(PG) 1 hr. 28 min.
Grade: B-

New in Local Theaters

Minions: The Rise of Gru (PG) 1 hr. 28 min. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Promenade, Malco Towne, Skylight, 112 Drive In

Mr. Malcom’s List (PG) 1 hr. 55. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle Hill

Classic Corner – Men in Black

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black (Columbia Pictures)

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, “Men in Black” is back in theaters on the big screen at the Malco Razorback Cinema with special showings at 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday, thanks to Fathom Events.

Has it really been that long ago?

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in this dynamic picture as the titular Men in Black, clandestine government agents who police and protect of all things alien on Earth.

With the planet crawling with aliens — many of them celebrities —cleverly disguised to blend in with the clueless human population, top-secret organization MiB is charged with monitoring and controlling alien activity while keeping it all a secret.

On the edge of retirement, Agent K (Jones) and his enthusiastic young partner, Agent J (Smith), are investigating a gaggle of mysterious deaths of extraterrestrials with the help of the smoldering and resourceful Dr. Laura Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), a New York medical examiner.

Searching for an intergalactic terrorist (Vincent D’Onofrio) with no good in mind, K and J must track him down or the Earth will go kablooey.

Like any film a quarter of a century old, “Men in Black” feels a bit dated, but there still is a lot of fun to be had with Jones at his grumpy best and Smith in top form well before his well publicized spat with Chris Rock at the Academy Awards earlier this year.

Some of the pop-culture references fall by the wayside today, but others land just as well now as they did then in this far-out and funny adventure.

Fourth of July on Turner Classics

As fan of most holidays great and small, I particularly appreciate the attention Turner Classic Movies gives to those special days that dot our calendars.

The channel does a fine job of matching up its movies to a specific holiday, and on Monday TCM is celebrating the Fourth of July with several patriotic movies during the day, and in the evening rolling out some classic Americana with films set during the early years of rock-and-roll.

Here is a list of the movies showing Monday to help celebrate the United States’ 246th birthday.

7 a.m. – John Paul Jones (1959) — A drama starring Robert Stack about the Naval hero of the Revolutionary War.

9:15 a.m. – The Scarlet Coat (1955) — A somewhat fictional Hollywood take on the capture of for the Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold.

11:15 a.m. – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) — A biopic about the career of song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, starring James Cagney.

1:30 p.m. – 1776 (1972) — Before there was “Hamilton,” there was this amusing musical detailing how the Colonies declared their Independence from Great Britain. It stars William Daniels as John Adams, Howard da Silva as Ben Franklin, and Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson.

4:15 p.m. – The Music Man (1962) — Robert Preston and Shirley Jones star in this musical about a charming film-flam man who convinces an Iowa town to start up a marching band.

7 p.m. – Jailhouse Rock (1957) — Elvis Presley made a lot of movies to varying degrees of quality. This melodrama about an ex-con who turns rock star is one of his best.

8:45 p.m. – The Buddy Holly Story (1978) — In perhaps his best performance, Gary Busey stars as the legendary hit maker who died in a 1959 plane crash at the age of 22 when he was just scratching the surface of his talent.

10:45 p.m. – Great Balls of Fire! (1989) — Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder star in the story of outlaw rock-’n’-roller Jerry Lee Lewis, who caused a scandal by marrying his 13-year-old cousin.