Review for Minions: The Rise of Gru
I have this preconception about Hollywood family films, especially the 3D animations that are standard blockbuster fare for the little ‘uns, which is usually justified, in that these films are trite, clichéd, and saccharine, with the same wisecracking comedy styles across the board, to get adults to stay in the cinema seats next to their sprogs. You have to be giving these movies away for me to actually sit through them, although sitting in a pound store bargain bucket was close enough for me to try a few such films. It was there that I found the first two Despicable Me movies, along with the first Minions, and they turned out to be exceptions to my self-imposed rule. These are family movies that are fun, and avoid the usual clichés. I actually paid a fair price for Minions: The Rise of Gru, not long after release. I was hyped enough to not wait for a bargain bucket.
It’s 1976, and 11-year-old Gru is the only one in his class at school who wants to be a super-villain when he grows up. He may get his chance sooner than he thinks, as the world’s greatest super-villains, the Vicious Six now have a vacancy, given that they’ve gotten rid of their leader, Wild Knuckles, stabbing him in the back after he stole the legendary Zodiac Stone. When he’s laughed out of the job interview, Gru thinks that stealing the Zodiac Stone from the Vicious Six will impress them. Instead, he’s now got a bunch of enemies chasing him. It will be up to the Minions to save their mini-Boss.
Minions: The Rise of Gru gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice between Dolby Atmos English and German, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround Dutch and French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Finnish, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English Audio Descriptive, and French Audio Descriptive. There are subtitles in English, Dutch, French, and German. I think the words pixel perfect would be appropriate at this point, were there not a 4k UHD release. But the film looks gorgeous, clear and sharp with excellent detail and colour, and with smooth, fluid animation. The world design has a delightful 70s retro feel, while the characters are distinctive and memorable. The audio is excellent, immersive and impactful, with some impressive action sequences, a wonderful period music soundtrack (even if it does drift towards the eighties on an occasion or two) while the dialogue is clear throughout. Actors may mumble their way through live action movies, but that’s never an option with animation. Someone should compel Christopher Nolan to make cartoons.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case. The disc boots to a static-ish menu. You’ll find the following extras, beginning with two Minions short features.
Post Modern Minion (3:44)
Minions and Monsters (4:20)
Extended Scene (1:25)
Character Profiles x6 (15:47)
Gru-vy Animation (6:27
The ‘70s: Fashion Food & Funk (4:48)
Minion Martial Arts (4:12)
How to Draw (& Animate) with Brad Ableson x3 (11:11)
Lair Flair: Make You Own Minion Hideout x3 (10:22)
Super Style Shop x2 (6:50)
I still have to see Despicable Me 3, but of the 4 films in this franchise that I have seen to this point, Minions: The Rise of Gru is the best. It’s got a strong storyline, the humour is on point, the characters are delightful, and the ‘70s nostalgia is strong. It all comes together to make for a great 90 minutes of fun. Once again, for me it’s the Gallic sensibilities; the film’s production is mostly French, that give enough of a twist to the humour particularly, and the visual style that distance this from the usual family animations from Hollywood. The film can be sweet without being schmaltzy, it can warm the heart without turning the stomach, and that is a depressingly rare talent in today’s family entertainment.
It may be a movie about the pursuit of villainy, but there is a wholesome message nevertheless. It’s about balancing the pursuit of ambition with staying true to one’s family, one’s tribe. There’s also the warning about meeting one’s heroes, the likelihood of being disappointed. Thankfully it’s subtly done, rather than being driven home with a narrative mallet.
That’s helped by the action and the comedy, which is the best yet in a Despicable Me/Minions movie. There are plenty of visual gags (including a great Airplane reference) to appreciate, and inventive and well designed action choreography. There’s a brace of action movie stars lending their voices to the Vicious Six, including Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Lucy Lawless, and Danny Trejo. With this kind of villainy, the Minions need some training to match it, and they find themselves a kung-fu master to learn from, brilliantly voiced by Michelle Yeoh.
Minions: The Rise of Gru was great entertainment from beginning to end, and it’s easy to see why the little yellow oddballs are just so adorable. The Blu-ray presents the film just as you would expect and hope, while the extras offer a little something for everyone.
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