Minions rise even without Gru in 'Minions: The Rise of Gru'

The fifth movie in the "Despicable Me"/ "Minions" franchise leans heavily on those little yellow guys, who help keep it afloat.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

There's a sequence in "Minions: The Rise of Gru" where those adorable little yellow Minions take over a commercial airliner. 

They're cute about it, they're still Minions after all, but they commandeer a passenger jet after impersonating a flight crew and they fly it to San Francisco. The number of federal rules they violate in the process would number in the dozens if not hundreds, not to mention the passengers' lives they put at risk by flying a jet with no prior flight experience, but no one is throwing the book at the Minions. They land the plane safely, everyone is relieved, and they go on to have another adventure.

Minions in "Minions: The Rise of Gru."

"The Rise of Gru" is the Minions' fifth adventure; they first appeared as side players in 2010's "Despicable Me," which produced two sequels, and "The Rise of Gru" is a follow-up to to 2015's "Minions," the franchise's prequel arm. They've ostensibly taken over the series, rendering Gru something of an afterthought, which is fine: the Minions are the show, and the show makes for a reasonably entertaining, fairly clever summertime distraction. 

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It's 1976, which allows/is an excuse for all sorts of groovy period references and needle drops, and young Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is dreaming of becoming a supervillain. He's following the bad guy collective Vicious 6 — a team of evildoers that includes leader Belle Bottom (voice of Taraji P. Henson), the lobster-armed Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and a bad-abbess who goes by Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless) — like most kids followed the Bee Gees. When there's an opening in their ranks, 12-year-old Gru throws his hat in the ring.

He proves his mettle during his job interview by snatching a powerful medallion from right underneath the group's noses but he winds up kidnapped by Wild Knuckles (voiced by Alan Arkin), the former leader of the Vicious 6, and Gru's hero.

Meanwhile the Minions are out to save Gru and they get in their own exploits along the way; one Minion, Otto (it's weird that they have individual names, right?), goes on a motorcycle trip with a biker (voiced by RZA) whom he makes friends with on the road. 

There's a Pet Rock joke here and a "Disco Inferno" mention there and a lesson or two about teamwork sprinkled in for good measure as "The Rise of Gru" skates by on the charm of the squishy yellow guys. Gru's quest to grow up to do really bad things is sort of less interesting as the series goes on, but for the most part the Minions keep him, and the series, in check. Without them, Gru's just another bad guy, and we've got enough of those already.   

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Minions: The Rise of Gru'

GRADE: B-

Rated PG: for some action/violence and rude humor

Running time: 88 minutes

In theaters