Quick synopsis: It’s 1976, 11 year old Gru wants to join a supervillain league but is rejected due to his young age, he does not take it well.
I was ready to slate this, I was ready to come down on this harder than the next UK Prime Minister comes down on an unemployed person not applying for jobs in their sleep. I was going to use every insult that exists, and a few that I made up to express my anger at this film.
But then it ruined my plans by having the audacity, the sheer gall, to actually be okay. How very dare you! I mean, it’s not going to end up on my “best of 2021” list, mainly because it’s 2022, but also because the best it ever gets is “okay”. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, I think it’s because it’s basically old Buster Keaton skits, but in animation so there’s no sense of danger or risk. There’s also always the sneaking suspicion that it’s a merchandise-driven series rather than a creative one. It’s strange as its when this film links to the others in the franchise that it’s at its weakest. The timeline doesn’t line up AT ALL with the first Minions film, and when it makes references to the other films it falls flat, and like every prequel ever made has moments where the audience reacts with “what a useful skill/gadget, that would have been useful in [scene in a film made earlier but chronologically takes place later]”.
This does fix the biggest mistake of the previous prequel, it focuses on a character who can talk. The minions are fine in small doses, if they were in a series of shorts it would be fine. But following them over the course of an entire feature-length film is tiresome, so following less obnoxious characters is a smart move. What would be even smarter is utilizing the supporting cast more effectively: the main villains are played by Lucy Lawless, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Tajiri P Henson, and Danny Trejo. With the exception of Henson, it’s possible to watch this film and be unaware of that. They’re not used enough and it feels like kind of a waste casting them. Also, it’s strange having them in a movie set in 1976, change the plot (make Gru a young villain instead of a child), and set it in the 80s and that casting would make sense.
Now onto the good; the narrative is strong and it never feels like things are happening “just because”. It is very funny at times, and the music is fun. It’s also absolutely perfect for kids, they’ll love it. The colours, the sound, the jokes, this will be one of those films parents will hate because of how often their kids will want to watch it.
So in summary, if you have kids, take them to the cinema to see it. If not, wait until netflix then check it out when you have nothing else to do.