While I view animation as an art form for all ages, “Minions: Rise of Gru” is unapologetically made with the kiddos in mind. Co-directors Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, and Jonathan del Val confidently know their target audience, and they deliver. There’s enough here for everyone to enjoy, but the film’s tone and antics are squarely aimed at children.
Set in the 1970s, the film is an origin story for Gru (Steve Carell), one of the most evil villains on the planet. He’s just a boy growing up in the suburbs, and he idolizes the supervillain group known as the Vicious 6. When Gru decides to apply to become a member, he’s rejected. Not willing to throw in the towel, the preteen is taken under the wing of the legendary and nefarious Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), who teaches him a thing or to about being bad.
It’s a surprisingly decent story, especially when Gru is kidnapped and has to rely on his army of minions to save the day. This makes for a lively adventure that’s loaded with exciting action sequences. The retro setting lends itself well to fun visual gags as well as a soundtrack filled with oldies that will please mom and dad.
The film wisely spends much of its time on the little yellow fellas, whose shenanigans are amusing. There are a number of fart jokes of course, and the wisecracks aren’t always inspired or sophisticated. But it’s still funny to hear the mischievous but good-hearted minions speaking in their strange brand of Pig Latin while participating in goofball antics.
The bright and colorful animation is terrifically detailed, and I cannot criticize anything about the technical skill. The voice talent (featuring Danny Trejo, Michelle Yeoh, Taraji P. Henson, and Russell Brand) is also strong, and the characters are engaging. The film’s breezy pacing makes it feel too short, and I never looked at my watch to see how much time had passed. I was engaged from the get-go.