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film review

The Minions franchise may not be Pixar-tier, but the movies have a colourful, anarchic energy.Photo Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures/Universal Studios

Minions: The Rise of Gru

Directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val

Written by Matthew Fogel

Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Pierre Coffin

Classification PG; 87 minutes

Opens in theatres July 1

I’m unsure what your household might sound like, but the few moments of silence that grace my days living with three children under the age of eight are routinely punctuated by one high-pitched word-slash-demand: “Minions!!!” Or, to more accurately imitate the cadence of my two-and-a-half-year-old son: “Meanioooonnnnsssss!!!”

Yes, those little yellow pipsqueak cartoon Twinkies have absolutely ruined my life ... or perhaps saved it? I might have seen the four Despicable Me/Minions movies countless times to near mind-numbing effect over the past few years, but the gibberish-jabbering nuisances have also provided immeasurable hours of distraction for the kids, allowing me to, for instance, write this film review.

And let’s be honest, parents: The Minions have got several short, yellow legs up on the self-righteous Paw Patrol crew. Not to mention those terrifying wide-eyed CGI babies from CoComelon. The Minions franchise may not be Pixar-tier, but the movies have a colourful, anarchic energy that puts them far ahead of, say, the Sonic the Hedgehog or Hotel Transylvania sequels, to name two of this year’s biggest family-friendly cash-grabs. There’s not much meat to the Minions’ thematic bones – and surprisingly, the movies have never tried to go the musical route, even though We Don’t Talk About Gru, No No No is just sitting there as a No. 1 hit possibility – but there are far worse ways to kill 90 minutes of child care.

Which is just what Minions: The Rise of Gru accomplishes. The fifth film in Illumination Entertainment’s blockbuster series – technically a prequel to 2010′s Despicable Me, and a sequel to 2015′s Minions; the loopy chronology of these movies is almost Fast and Furious-esque – The Rise of Gru is the weakest entry by far. But with just enough semi-inspired moments of weirdness to skate by.

The plot is comprehensible only to those paying inordinately careful attention (something about an ancient Chinese stone that unleashes superpowers), the new characters are annoyances (a group of supervillains named the Sinister, oh sorry, I mean the “Vicious 6″), and the charm of both wannabe bad guy Gru (Steve Carell) and his many title henchmen naturally on the wane this far into things. But, well, as my kids say: Meanioooonnnnsssss!

Gru (Steve Carell, centre) in Illumination's Minions: The Rise of Gru, directed by Kyle Balda.Illumination Entertainment & Universal Pictures/Universal Studios

Gru’s sunny henchmen are still enormously cute little denim-clad devils, and as they help their young boss achieve his supervillain dreams, the characters deliver enjoyable spurts of Looney Tunes-y mayhem. This includes one particularly outlandish scene – which I’m surprised that the filmmakers got away with – in which the central Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob (all once again voiced by Pierre Coffin) hijack an airplane as if they were Carlos the Jackal.

I’m glad that Carell, his voice slightly higher-pitched here to passably pull off a tweenage Gru, is getting a steady payday. It is also great that the actor is reunited with his Little Miss Sunshine co-star Alan Arkin, who voices a gruff elder-statesman villain named Wild Knuckles. And, yes, The Rise of Gru will provide a healthy (if not exactly, you know, “healthy”) amount of screen-time in the Hertz household, and yours. But if money is the root of all evil, then the Minions ought to be filthy rich by now. Let’s switch to some do-goodery, guys, and take an extended break.

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