The Film Buffa: ‘Gru’ may be rising, but it’s the ‘Minions’ that are still thriving

If the world ran on “Minions” jokes, it would be a better place.

Seriously, you gather about 50 of the adorable sidekicks to the somewhat-evil mastermind Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), turn them loose in a big city, and watch the comedy flow freely. Few film franchises can pull this off five movies in. If you count the three highly successful “Despicable Me” entries, the 2015 “Minions” movie and now this latest release, you won’t see much of a dropoff in heart, humor, or hysterical adventures.

The focus of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” may be mostly centered around Carell’s young villain-wannabe fully coming into his own, but it’s really just another reason for a Minion adventure. Stuart, Bob, Kevin, and the newcomer Otto once again go looking for their master in a big city, finding peril and misfortune along the way, all for the audience’s benefit. Otto, the adorable new Minion with a lisp and eyes that would make “Puss in Boots” blush, finds himself all alone, looking for the priceless necklace for Gru to make his name on–while the other three are turned every which way but loose on their quest to find Gru, running into the Vicious 6, a supervillain organization that their human friend really wants to be a part of.

Unlike “Lightyear,” which brought little new or enjoyable to the table, “Minions: Rise of Gru” gives fans all the treats and extra cake that we come to expect here. The callbacks and throwbacks to classic movies, the still fresh hilarity among the Minions, and a plot with just enough juice and new face to keep the engine going for a lightning quick run time (82 minutes before the credits). Nothing to rename the wheel is invented here, nor will you place this as your #1 animated film of the year–well, maybe that comes later.

The message to be taken away here runs a similar route as previous animated adventure films: the real power of family, brotherhood, and finding the courage in yourself to do crazy things for the ones you love. With no offense to Carell’s (still well voiced) Gru-who isn’t quite as interesting in young age as he is when older-it’s the “Minions” who truly aid the rise of this film’s quality. Simple scenes like Steve and Kevin sleeping on the sides of poor, tired Gru before a third Minion slams into bed gets the laughs going early. A fart bomb inside a screening of “Jaws” works very well, and a subplot with Otto and a biker gets unexpected mileage.

While Gru is learning the ways of thievery from his law-breaking idol (a great Alan Arkin), the short fellas are learning a few Kung Fu tricks from Michelle Yeoh’s massage therapist. Just wait until you see one of them smacked around by a massage patient who isn’t even looking as he smacks. By bringing in a couple of veteran talents to the voice cast in Arkin and Yeoh, the freshness abides in “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” instead of being a stale, shameless money grab that gets forgotten after the lights come up. When this one ended, I wanted to keep laughing and follow the exploits of Bob and Otto in different movie universes.

Speaking of which, if director Kyle Balda and the writing team want to make another “Minions” delight, they should explore different comic and popular film territories with the adorable brothers. Unlike most film franchises that climb over the 12 year mark, these little guys keep producing comic tales that make the adults laugh as often as the kids. When I screened the film with my wife and son, we were giggling more at times than Vinny. Animated films that can do that should be appreciated.

If “The Rise of Gru” is any indication, it’s the “Minions” that are the gift that keeps on giving.

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