Now that the much-older Wild Knuckles is out of the picture, The Vicious 6—I mean Five—are looking for a much younger replacement. Gru applies for the position and receives a response housed in a self-destructing 8-track tape. He enters the record store that secretly houses Belle Bottom’s lair, meeting his future colleague Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) in the process. Nefario gives Gru a 45 of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “You’re No Good,” the key to entering the secret hideout. Since he’s barely out of junior high, Gru is dismissed, but not before stealing the Zodiac Stones. Belle and her crew pursue him in order to get them back.
Believe it or not, there are two other plot-heavy stories in “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” One concerns the surviving Wild Knuckles’ San Francisco-based quest for revenge, and the other involves the Minions learning kung fu from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh) in order to save Gru after he’s been kidnapped. Well, those two kind of go together; Gru’s been taken by Wild Knuckles in an attempt to retrieve what’s rightfully his. Unbeknownst to Mr. Knuckles, Otto, the newest, and most talkative of the Minions, has traded the jewelry for a pet rock. As punishment, Gru is subjected to a type of torture I would happily endure: He’s tied to a giant record player that will spin, for 48 hours straight, the greatest disco song ever recorded, the Andrea True Connection’s “More More More.”
“Don’t call my mother for ransom,” Gru begs, “she will probably pay you to keep me.” Gru’s mean ol’ Mom is once again played by Julie Andrews, who characteristically has no use for her son nor his henchmen. The Vicious 6 show up to extract a pound of flesh from her anyway. Seeing the star of “The Sound of Music” get her ass kicked by a nun is my kind of meta! That’s one way to solve a problem like Maria, I tell ya!
As with “Minions,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” moves at breakneck speed. This time, however, it’s a tad less exhausting and actually works to the film’s advantage. The laughs are well-paced and the viewer isn’t given too much time to reflect on how ridiculous Matthew Fogel’s screenplay is. The animation is striking, from the gorgeously rendered Chinatown of the City by the Bay to the charming look of young Gru. He has the same big, expressive eyes that fill the emotional faces of his “little gurls.” Carell does a fine job of making his Gru voice younger and less pronounced. Henson and the rest of the cast sound like they’re having a blast, and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Even if you can’t stand the Minions (who are once again voiced in “Minionese” by Pierre Coffin), you might find this one tolerable. Especially if you’re old enough to get the 1976 jokes yet feel young enough to find bemusement in all the goofy slapstick. If nothing else, everything gets tied up neatly in a bow, bringing the DMU up-to-date, thereby making any further films unnecessary. That is, unless this one makes a ton of money.
Now playing in theaters.