The return of jaundiced servants, more irritating than ever


Yellowish creatures wired for submission, Minions have become an inescapable nuisance in all entertainment media and even theme parks. Their overly simplistic design and mostly unintelligible dialect have made them an easily marketable brand that amuses young audiences with their frenetic, childish, irritating personalities.

Unnecessarily, their unbearable dominance expands further with a new film, “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” from director Kyle Balda, a creator involved in this hollow animated emporium since the original “Despicable Me” movie now over 200 years ago. ten years.

No longer looking for a master to serve after meeting Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) at the end of 2015’s “Minions,” this universe’s first prequel, the rounded sidekicks have settled into the young villain’s house. But their ideal living situation is disrupted when their 12-year-old boss (the film is set in the 1970s) wants to join the Vicious 6, a criminal organization made up of the most dangerous antagonists. That one of them is an evil nun is the funniest gag in the movie.

During the opening sequence, the Vicious 6 travel to a remote location to retrieve “the zodiac stone”, their version of the type of powerful and mystical shots that relic villains are often after, and they betray their leader Wild. Knuckles (Alan Arkin) – Gru’s hero – to get it. Shortly after, Gru is interviewed to fill the vacancy, but when rejected due to his young age, he steals the precious gem from them and thus begins a chase across the country.

Those invested in the lore of these films will find references to characters who, decades in the future of this fictional reality, will impact Gru’s malevolent endeavors.

“The Rise of Gru” suffers from the same structural weakness as “The Secret Lives of Pets 2,” another of Illumination’s inconsequential box office hits, in that it divides its plot into three separate storylines. One follows Gru’s desire for a father figure, another focuses on the three main minions’ quest to find their master, while a third sees minion Otto trying to retrieve the powerful stone after having it given to a child.

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None of these subplots add up dramatically, but they lead all parties to San Francisco for a final battle where the inclusion of the Chinese horoscope yields a little shape-shifting surprise. The most notable of these shows Kevin, Stewart, and Bob in Chinatown learning kung fu from Master Chow (voiced by the great Michelle Yeoh) where the low, slapstick humor has at least a few dashes of ingenuity thanks to the setting.

Yet this chapter exemplifies American animated feature films’ strange obsession with weaving martial arts into their narratives as a transformative experience for their characters, with a “sensei-like” mentor guiding the training. Beyond the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, where he’s written as intrinsic to the story, other examples include the upcoming star-studded title “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.”

As lackluster as this scattered-brained saga is, the animation team of “The Rise of Gru” excel at constantly reminding us that it’s the 70s via their production design, like the facade of the lair of the villain, Criminal Records, and the clothes worn by characters like Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson). Some jokes may be stronger for adults familiar with technology now considered archaic or those who remember Tupperware parties and the Spielberg “Jaws” craze. Period-specific songs also permeate the action.

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The tastelessly worded writing behind these franchise productions makes them tedious even at under 90 minutes. The problem isn’t that we know a properly resolved ending is coming, but that every step of the way to get there reeks of revamped material barely transformed to illustrate a different side to the worn-out protagonists.

Writer Matthew Fogel (“The Lego Movie 2”) delegates most of the film’s humor to the annoyingly euphoric reactions of the minions, as well as the curiosity some may still feel about their invented language: Minionese, a hodgepodge nonsense of words from multiple languages ​​courtesy of Pierre Coffin, who has voiced all of these yellow creatures since their fateful creation.

The fact that the studio delayed the streaming release of “The Rise of Gru” for two years speaks to its confidence in the money-making potential of its star characters in theaters. And while they’re probably right in their assumption, the artistic value of this episode is that of a DVD a parent buys from a discount bin at Walmart, several years after its original release, to entertain their kids while are trying to cook dinner.

There’s a real crisis of imagination in studio animated feature films, and the Minions are the prime example of an uninspired property that only exists to produce insane content. The creators wish to saturate every screen with their incessant, nonsensical yapping and repetitive antics. One can only hope for the unlikely day when something less boring will happen, and Illumination will finally let them die as they painfully cry out “Banana!” one last time.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” opens Friday in US theaters.


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