Despite its moniker, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is far less a 1970s story about the genesis of the “Despicable Me” protagonist than an excuse to get his lemon-colored, pill-shaped stooges into hippie digs and ‘70s soul music.
A higher-pitched (and utterly incidental) Steve Carrell reprises the voice role of Gru as a young, up-and-coming supervillain, angling to join his favorite crime team, the Vicious 6. After deposing their founder Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), the Vicious 6 and their new leader, Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), laugh off the runt-sized Gru until he manages to steal a mystical Chinese stone the group had already pinched.
The rest of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is a mindless, multi-front plot that includes Knuckles kidnapping Gru while looking to reclaim the stone and the Minions trying to refind the stone after minion Otto unwittingly trades it for a pet rock. The Minions are assisted by acupuncturist Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), an erstwhile Kung Fu sensei who comes out of retirement to train the anthropomorphic Twinkies in the martial arts.
So little matters in this madcap mayhem that you will not care where the “story” takes you or remember much about it even as you cross the threshold of the theater’s exit. You will lose all interest far before the climactic clash between the supernatural incarnations of the Vicious 6 and Minions. But Illumination studio’s animation is effervescent, and the movie’s minute morsels of mirth derive from the Minions’ admitted charm and their mash-up of jabberwocky and pseudowords. At least the film knows their target audience. Otherwise, this origin story is utterly unoriginal. “The Rise of Gru” isn’t the fall of the Minions, but they’re all this franchise really has left.
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