Steve Carrell is back as the pint-sized criminal mastermind.
Gru (voice of Steve Carrell) is a precocious and talented child in '70s America with only one thing on his mind - joining the villainous supergroup Vicious 6. Led by Wild Knuckles (voice of Alan Arkin), the group undergoes a change of leadership when Belle Bottom (voice of Taraji P. Henson) decides to steal a precious medallion they've just stolen and install herself as leader. Gru - along with his minions - ambles his way into this power struggle...
If you can believe it, this is now the fifth - that's right, FIFTH - movie to feature the yellow pellets and Steve Carrell's anything-but-sonorous villain, Gru. What's always been so intriguing about 'Despicable Me' and its spinoffs is that the minions themselves have come in and out of focus whenever the story requires it. For example, when 'Despicable Me' ran its course fully to the end, they rewound the tape and put the minions front and centre. Now it would seem that Gru is back in focus, only this time as a wee young man who's very interested in becoming a supervillain.
At a breakneck speed and in just 88 minutes, 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' blasts through a kaleidoscope of '70s jokes and gags, some of them as base and common as you can get. One of them sees Gru deploy a fart bomb to clear a cinema screening of 'Jaws' of its audience so he can watch it in peace with his minions. Another sees said minions take charge of a passenger plane and take it on a death-defying spin while one of their number dispenses single peanuts to the baffled passengers. Between these setups is a thin story about villainous double-crossing, an extended but ultimately irrelevant cameo by the voice of Michelle Yeoh, and a precious amulet that contains mystical powers.
If all of this seems familiar and rote, that's sort of the point. 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' is more of the same, done slightly better with improved animation and refined jokes to make the whole thing smoother and neater. There really isn't much here in the way of dead weight; anything that isn't making a silly joke or pushing the story on is dropped in favour of alacrity. It's a credit to Illumination Studios that they have this thing down to a well-oiled machine, but seeing as how it's five movies in, there are only so many times they can keep it cranking out the hits.
Nevertheless, 'Minions: The Rise of Gru' is light and pacy animated comedy that will keep much younger audiences enrapt and older audiences mildly amused with the catchy soundtrack and Alan Arkin's slightly bewildered voice takes trying to keep up with all of this.