The second in this spin-off franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru is directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, and Jonathan del Val and features the return of Steve Carrell to the voice cast as the young supervillain, Gru. Set in the 1970s, the film serves as an origin story for Gru and a prequel to the three Despicable Me films from 2010, 2013, and 2017.  Gru begins the film as a youngster who dreams of becoming a great supervillain like his idols in the Viscous 6, and when an up-and-coming villain Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) double-crosses its aging leader, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), Gru auditions to join the group. To prove his worth, Gru steals a magical amulet, and subsequent plot machinations involve Gru and his minions facing off against the Viscous 6 in exciting, chaotic action sequences that are sure to delight the film’s target audience.

Despite the recent TikTok trend of teenagers dressing in suits to ironically enjoy this latest venture from the Illumination animation studios, the main audience for Minions: The Rise of Gru is young children who will be enthralled by the vibrant animation and unbothered by the minions’ lack of language or clever quips. Most of the minions’ hijinks depends on physical comedy, and many of those sequences work well. A kung fu training montage featuring Michelle Yeoh’s character shines with some real laughs.

However, Minions: The Rise of Gru falls short in the relationships between the human characters. This plot thread lacked any depth or any interesting conflicts, and as a result, Gru gets short shrift in his character development; oddly enough, The Rise of Gru doesn’t give us much about Gru’s rise. There are also many jokes that are intended for the adults that don’t work. There is a reference to the 2003 Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill, that didn’t have much of a punchline and would evade kids’ awareness. There are also references to the 1970’s setting that continue the modern era of comedy that thinks mentioning something is equivalent to having something meaningful to say about it.

Overall, I can’t necessarily recommend Minions: The Rise of Gru, due to its haphazard character development and scattershot humor, but I do think that for the intended audience, either as a TikTok trend for teenagers or very young children, the minions retain enough charm to keep them engaged.

Two out of five stars.