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I Watched the New Minions Movie and Had an End-of-Childhood Crisis

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Five years since the last addition to the franchise “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is the highly-anticipated summertime smash revival to the ‘Despicable Me’ family. 

The film is officially the highest-grossing 4th of July box office release, generating a whopping $128 million during opening weekend.

The film’s release was postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when it was finally ready, the world — mostly Tiktok — was ready. The premiere was met with hoards of moviegoers dressed in formal attire called “GentleMinions,” posting their movie viewings to TikTok. The film quickly gained a cult following of Gen-Z viewers. 

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” boasts an unlikely array of stars in the cast and on the soundtrack, including Marlena Gru (Julie Andrews), Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), and Jean Clawed (Jean- Claude Van Damme), along with musical appearances by singer Phoebe Bridgers and rapper Yeat. 

The diverse and incohesive cast and crew is initially disorienting, but the film brims with an inexplicable and innocent sense of charm that made Minions a hilarious, albeit primitive, use of moviegoers’ 1 hour and 27 minutes.

When viewers get past the spotted banana peel of random, flashy casting and teenage hype, there’s some canonical fruit to be found in “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Reprising his ethnically-ambiguous (but most likely some sort of Eastern European) role, Steve Carrell tweaks his Gru voice up a few pitches to fully encapsulate the young supervillain, pre-puberty and pre-balding. However, despite the backward jump in the “Despicable Me” Universe (DMU, if you will), the fan-favorite minion trio Kevin, Stuart, and Bob look the same throughout the franchise, showing hairlines that are as timeless as the comical value of the minions’ love for bananas. 

A young Gru receives the opportunity of the lifetime when he is invited to interview for a newly-opened spot on the supervillain team, the Vicious Six. When they reject him due to his lack of experience, Gru steals their prized Zodiac Stone to impress them, inciting a predictable but entertaining chain of events that result in his kidnapping and subsequent mentorship under his favorite (ex) member of the Vicious Six, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). 

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

According to Wikipedia, the movie’s genre is animated comedy, but a more accurate categorization would be “utter chaos.” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” draws conventions from iconic film tropes, such as Hong Kong-style Kung-Fu movies with Yeoh’s Master Chow arc and an Indiana Jones-esque opening adventure sequence. Elements of Pixar-like artifacts and mystical transformations are coupled with the whacky minion population held together by the Minion-Chicken baby.

The animation quality throughout the nonsensical conduct is reminiscent of the other films, while simultaneously showcasing the major technological advancements that have arisen over the past five years. The visuals were breathtaking; from the brightest San Francisco Chinatown firework to the tiniest, worn imperfection on Wild Knuckles’ brick wall.

The film’s centralized theme of “everything is better together,” doesn’t make the jokes any less enjoyable, despite being cliche. Gru’s preteen angst draws eerily pertinent parallels with the college experience and growing up. The little villain craves to be independent and to be treated seriously, but still has a crippling fear of people calling his mom to report his behavior, all of which resonate with the young-adult angst that everyone experiences.

He is embarrassed to be seen with his minion guardians at school, evading their displays of affection and excitement. He makes awkward small-talk with looming villains while waiting for a big interview, undoubtedly feeling the rush of impostor syndrome while surrounded by people who he felt were more qualified than him. 

Conversely, the minions stood for everything anti-Gru. Mindless and incompetent, they trade priceless Chinese artifacts for pet rocks with googly eyes, and repeatedly walk through wet cement; they represent something much more elusive: the blissful ignorance of childhood. 

There’s something about animated slapstick and incoherent scatological Minionese that stirs up a sense of nostalgic innocence, serving as a reminder of a time when profanity and obscenity weren’t prerequisites for humor, but butt jokes were non-negotiable. The only thing this movie lacked was an end credits scene, but then again, maybe it’s a good thing there wasn’t one. Things aren’t always that deep in the DCU.

Lauren Le is a Campus News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at laurenl9@uci.edu