We first heard ‘Minionese’, the language of the Minions, in 2010, when creators Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin introduced us to supervillain Gru and his army of tiny creatures that spoke a gibberish tongue made up of random words from several languages. Since Despicable Me (2010), there have been two sequels, the bad guy had a change of heart, and the minions got their own movie (Minions, 2015).
Minions: The Rise of Gru, written by Bryan Lynch and Matthew Fogel and directed by Kyle Balda, is the origin story of Gru’s villainy and his introduction to the adorable denim-clad, bespectacled tiny creatures who are deeply loyal to their evil master.
Twelve-year-old Gru’s ambition is to become a supervillain and join the ranks of the Vicious 6, an infamous group of villains which is short by one member after ejecting their leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). The remaining members are Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson), Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren) and Stronghold (Danny Trejo).
The choice of names and voice parts for the villains establishes the tone of this film – it’s steeped in 1970s nostalgia from the disco styling to the soundtrack that includes retro hits Funky Town, Cecilia, You’re No Good and Born To Be Alive.
Gru’s audition with the Vicious 6 does not go so well. It gets worse when the mystical stone he steals from them is misplaced by one of his minions.
Along with his mini henchmen Kevin, Stuart, Bob and Otto (all voiced by Pierre Coffin), Gru (Steve Carell) is now a wannabe bad guy on the run from the really bad guys. During this escapade, he meets Dr Nefario (Russell Brand), a scientist and proprietor of a record store who later joins Gru’s crew, and Wild Knuckles, the villain who will go on to be Gru’s mentor.
During the adventure, the minions become a more cohesive unit with their “mini boss” and discover their superpower – to make big sad eyes that can melt the heart of the fiercest human. As for Gru, we already know who he is, having seen him adopt three girls and collaborate with the Anti Villain League in the Despicable Me films.
The animated comedy is an 88-minute delight, further enlivened by the talented voice cast (which includes Julie Andrews as Gru’s mother and Michelle Yeoh as a Kung Fu master) that aspires to simply entertain all ages. If the little ones in the audience are squealing in delight at the shenanigans of the Minions, from trying to fly a plane to learning Kung Fu, then mission accomplished.