Minions: The Rise of Gru
By now, I think it's probably safe to say that the Minions are typically seen as one of two things - adorable, innocent and fun or irritating, invasive and simply there for the cash-in. I tend to lean a little more towards the first opinion, although with the full realization that indeed, these little yellow fellows are money makers and that's generally the reason these films exist anymore. At no point was it more painfully obvious than the last 'Minions' movie of 2015.
Thankfully, this one managed to come along and actually make us care about Gru (Steve Carell) again for the first time since probably 'Despicable Me 2'. While the Minions do play their titular part as expected, the story is much more about, well, the rise of Gru. It's actually a pretty good example of a trailer that delivers all the Minion madness we've come to expect from these films (whether we like it or not), but the final product ends up much better than we thought it was going to be. And while it serves as yet another origin story, I kind of like how it works out, fitting right in-between 'Minions' and the first 'Despicable Me' - arguably the lowest and highest points of the series, respectively.
Here, we go back to 1976 when Gru, at just 11 years old, aspires to one day become a supervillain. His first step to success was to hire the Minions to assist him in his work. From there, Gru eventually receives an invitation to audition for the five remaining supervillain members of The Vicious 6. Now, let's just take a moment to take in the voice-casting here. The Vicious 6 consists of Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) - a disco-themed villain who has replaced their former leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin); Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme) - a Frenchman with a big lobster claw for a right arm; Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) - a Swedish roller skating champion; Stronghold (Danny Trejo) - the obvious brute of the group; and Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless) - an old nun master of the nunchaku.
Needless to say, due to Gru's young age, he's essentially taken as a joke rather than any sort of contender for the 6th member of the band. However, in the same room lies the famous Zodiac Stone. During its heist was when Wild Knuckles was actually betrayed by the rest of the group and presumed dead afterwards. In an attempt to prove himself worthy to join the group, with the help of Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all Pierre Coffin), Gru manages to steal the Zodiac Stone giving it to Otto - a chubby Minion with an actual personality. But when Otto foolishly trades the Zodiac Stone for a pet rock, a chain of events begins to unravel to truly test Gru's talents, including working alone after angrily firing the Minions, and martial arts training from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh).
Personally speaking, I find myself somewhat stuck with the whole Minion thing. I have always loved the first 'Despicable Me' movie as a solid, feel-good story. From there, while mildly enjoying each film after that for the silly fun they were, nothing has ever felt the same as that first movie - not even 'DM2', which is actually often referred to as the "best one" as well. But with that said, I think I might put this one in a second-place position. I kind of like the origin story of Gru here, the Minions, though heavily featured, do take a bit of a back seat to everything else, the voice-casting for the Vicious 6 is actually kind of amazing, and strangely enough, it actually makes for a decent story.
So, as far as Minions go, I tend to say that I have a "soft spot" for them. It's like this - if I were in a room full of Minions, I'd likely get annoyed and try to leave. But then I'd look back and see all their puppy dog eyes, feel really bad about getting annoyed and decide to go party with them. I absolutely get how they can irritate people, especially with the idea that they're so profitable, but I do still get a kick out of them. Somehow, they can still manage to tickle my funny bone. And here, it helps a great deal that the focus isn't on them so much as it's on the origin story of Gru. Hopefully, if they crank out any more of these, they can stick to this formula. The Minions will always work best as side characters, even if the movie they're in is named after them.
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