Minions: The Rise of Gru Hits The 70s

L-R: Gru (Steve Carell) and Minion Otto in Illumination's Minions: The Rise of Gru, directed by Kyle Balda. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Minions: The Rise of Gru continues to take audiences on the path towards the first Despicable Me with a lot of fun slapstick moments.

However, I would be remis to point out a problem with the film’s soundtrack. There’s a point in the film where we hear the five-tone motif from John Williams’s score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The problem with this is that this film is set 1976 and Close Encounters didn’t get released until November 1977. Even at that, he didn’t even start working on the score until summer 1976 at the earliest. We know that the film takes place during the Chinese New Year so it is well before the summer. Similarly, “Funkytown” didn’t get released until 1979. The filmmakers certainly take some liberties by setting the film in 1976 but then use the music from the entire decade.

Adults will get enjoyment from the soundtrack. Children will have some entertainment in seeing the Minions in action again. It’s been five years since Despicable Me 3 and even longer since the release of Minions in 2015. Gru inches closer to where he is at the start of Despicable Me. The filmmakers make sure to include Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) in the action at Criminal Records. We’re introduced to a new crop of villains with the Vicious 6: Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Nun-chuck (Lucy Lawless), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), and Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Their founder is Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) but he’s now on his own, much to his dismay.

When we meet Gru in this new Minions film, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto are desperate to please him. He’s just a kid and just over a year away from turning 13. Gru and his crew are busy creating a new lair in the basement, building weapons, and just trying to go on a mission. After his Vicious 6 interview turns sour, he steals the Zodiac Stone from under their nose. Meanwhile, Wild Knuckles is also chasing after the stone. He decides to kidnap Gru before the others can have a chance. What happens now? The minions decide go on a rescue mission with no shortage of comedic hijinks, including flying a plane to San Francisco, and learning kung fu from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh).

Steve Carell and Alan Arkin have great chemistry after appearing in films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Get Smart. Once again, Arkin plays a mentor to Carell’s character. Fortunately for Arkin, he doesn’t have to record his lines opposite Carell. When you have comic legends going at it, the recordings would have to pause several times for laughter.

Illumination really takes it up a notch with their action. I’ve seen a number of their films to date but this is the most action by far. They’re really paying tribute to the 1970s, short of setting this film in space. The biggest homage by far is by way of kung fu. If they did this film in live-action, there would be a lot of CGI but the action would be a sight to see. They give us a new Minion in Otto, which begs the question of why do we not see him in Minions and where is he in the other films? Does he die between now and the first Despicable Me movie? I have questions and need answers!

Where the 2015 film celebrates the best of rock and roll in the 1960s, this film follows suit with the 1970s with a number of funk, disco and soul classics. We get some new versions of a number of songs. But again, for a film set in 1976, they should not be using any songs from after January or February! Sorry but I’m a stickler especially when it’s music that the characters themselves are singing! This isn’t Back to the Future or Hot Tub Time Machine! Outside of my complaints, Jack Antonoff can keep doing what he does with producing music.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is fine but it doesn’t need to be anything more than that–plus, the soundtrack is a necessary distraction from all of the news.

DIRECTOR: Kyle Balda
CO-DIRECTORS: Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val
CAST: Steve Carell, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, RZA, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lucy Lawless, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Russell Brand, with Julie Andrews and Alan Arkin

Universal releases Minions: The Rise of Gru in theaters on July 1, 2022. Grade: 3/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.