Review – Kid Villany (“Minions: The Rise of Gru”)

Almost every villain is getting their own backstory nowadays, like Cruella, Joker, Brightburn, and Megamind. That being said, let’s not forget Gru, the pointy-nosed, super-villain, evil genius that eventually became a loving father of three. What was his backstory? 

Last seen in the final moments of 2015’s Minions, a 12-year-old Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) appeared, stole the crown jewels, and became the Minion’s new boss. We now learn this pre-teen is a huge fanboy of the Vicious Six, a team of supervillains led by the septuagenarian & founder, Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). Unfortunately, they kick him out of the group after he steals the magical Zodiac Stone. No honor amongst thieves, huh? Anyway, there’s an opening in their villainous ensemble, so they start recruiting. This is where young Gru wants in, with the help of his many loyal Minion henchmen. (all Minions are voiced by Pierre Coffin). 

At the Vicious Six interview, new leader Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), along with her crazy bad guys, claw-handed Jean Clawed (Jean-Claude VanDamme), roller-skating Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), powerful Stronghold (Danny Trejo), and Catholic nun Nunchuck (Lucy Lawless) reject Gru, but the kid manages to steal their Stone, with the help of a young Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand). Enraged, the Vicious Six. . . er, Five go after Gru, but he’s kidnapped by Wild Knuckles who thinks he has the Stone. Problem is, the valuable Zodiac Stone has been misplaced by the goofy Minion, Otto! Oh no!

From here, it splinters into several different stories: the Vicious Five try to find Gru and wreak havoc everywhere, Gru and old Wild Knuckles start to bond after getting off to a rocky start, the Three Muskateers of Minions (Kevin, Bob, and Stuart) are frantically looking for Gru in San Francisco and getting Kung Fu lessons from Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), a martial arts master. Oh, and Otto is on a quest to get that Stone back from a biker (the rapper RZA)! Whew! Finally, in the third act, all timelines converge in Chinatown for the requisite final battle.

I must confess, I love the Minions. They crack me up with their ridiculous gibberish language, outrageous slapstick antics, and how they get into hilarious trouble without even trying. Screenwriter Matthew Fogel (The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part) knows them too and has written a very funny, but jumbled mess. Fogel doesn’t tell one story, he tells several, and that’s where this movie loses its impact. There’s enough plot and storylines here for at least three separate films, but instead, they’re all crammed into one. And with that comes a ton of plot holes, inconsistencies, and deus ex machinas.

Still, sifting through all the fast-paced mayhem is director Kyle Balda (Minions, Despicable Me 3, The Lorax) who knows how to crank up the action and craziness to 11. I have to admit I was laughing quite a bit at all the insane stuff being thrown at the screen, especially with the Vicious Six villains, who are SO hilariously over-the-top and flamboyant, you can’t help but chuckle. The nunchuck-wielding NunChuck flying around in her Church Organ car was my favorite. For kids, it’s got the silly Twinkie-shaped Minions doing non-stop slapstick, and for the adults who are dragged to the theater, you get to hear the Minions sing the Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in Minionese, and you can’t beat that!

**Now showing only in theaters 

Megamind (2010)

Growing up as a supervillain isn’t easy, and in this hilarious send-up of superhero movies like Superman, Minions, Despicable Me, and the TV series ReBoot, Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Tina Fey lend their voices to some animated gold.

They’re just babies from outer space, sent to Earth from their dying planets (like Superman), but only one of them gets the happy ending like the Man of Steel. Both arrive in Metro City at the same time, and where baby Metro Man (Pitt) is raised in a mansion, infant Megamind (Ferrell) is raised by hardened criminals in prison! They go to the same school together, but Metro Man bullies the brilliant blue alien all the time. It’s then that Megamind has an epiphany; wishing to become a villain, thus setting off a life-long rivalry between him and Metro Man.

In the present, supervillain Megamind, aided by his robot/fish-headed companion, Minion (David Cross), frequently and unsuccessfully battles Metro Man for control of the city. This battle goes on for decades, until one day when, true to form, Megamind kidnaps TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Fey)–again–and holds her hostage to lure Metro Man to his death. . . again! Bwa-ha-ha-ha! Only this time, it actually works! Megamind successfully kills Metro Man! WTH?! With no one around to stop him, Megamind goes on a crime spree, taking over the city. However, after weeks of this, he eventually becomes depressed and bored with no hero to fight.

Deciding to blow up the Metro Man museum, Megamind sees Roxanne there and quickly impersonates Bernard, the museum’s curator. Disguised as Bernard, Megamind is able to talk to Roxanne as a real person, not as a bad guy. He decides to use Metro Man’s DNA to create a new superhero to fight. Megamind perfects the serum, but accidentally injects it into Hal Stewart (Hill), Roxanne’s dimwitted cameraman who is overly infatuated with her. While training the doofus superhero Hal using a “Space Dad” disguise, Megamind also begins to date Roxanne (as Bernard). This creates a falling out between him and Minion.

Superhero Hal, now calling himself “Titan”, is prepared to do battle with Megamind, but things don’t go the way he planned. Hal/Titan has become drunk with his new power and begins a vicious crime spree, much to the surprise of Megamind. He’s also more powerful than Megamind imagined, so powerful in fact, that Megamind is defeated in battle. Teaming up to stop Titan, Megamind and Roxanne go to Metro Man’s old lair and discover (shocker!) he’s still alive, just faking his death! Refusing to help, it’s up to Megamind and Roxanne to figure out how to stop Titan once and for all.

This is one funny movie, thanks to Alan Schoolcraft & Brent Simons, this being their one and only screenplay. That’s it! One and done. The lightning-fast and whiz-bang direction is by Tom McGrath (The Madagascar film franchise), making this an eye-popping, frenetic, fun film to watch. Even more enjoyable is the script, laced with adult humor interwoven with all the kiddie nonsense that is pure gold. But an animation film is only half as good as the V/O work, and Ferrell and Cross top the list as Megamind and Minion with their back ‘n’ forth witty banter. It’s a fun, family film that is pure popcorn.  

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