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New ‘Minions’ movie’s best quality is short run time

Movies

There’s a scene in “Minions: The Rise of Gru” where Bob the Minion is trying to soothe a crying baby on an airplane. As this was going on, I thought “You said it, kid. That’s how I feel watching this movie, too.”

“Rise of Gru” is the fifth helping of the “Despicable Me/Minions” franchise and follows a quartet of Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) as they try to rescue Gru (Steve Carrell) from the clutches of disgraced supervillain Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). Along the way, the Minions cross paths with Kung Fu Master Chou (Michelle Yeoh) and acquire the skills they’ll need to combat a supervillain team led by the evil Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson) and Gru learns essential lessons in villainy.

I get that this is a kid’s movie and its entire purpose is to keep children engaged while separating their parents from their money. There’s plenty of space for that kind of family film. It’s just that, thanks to “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kubo and the Two Strings” and a whole bunch of Pixar movies, we know that it’s possible for family films to express important themes, stir complex emotions, and pose thoughtful questions.

“Rise of Gru” wants nothing to do with that noise. Instead, this flick just plays the hits, repeating gags and jokes from the previous films while any new jokes are only mildly amusing. When it’s not doing that, “Rise of Gru” is ripping off ideas from other intellectual properties, from the opening credits that crib from “James Bond” to the supervillain team-up that’s an obvious riff on Marvel’s Sinister Six team from “Spider-Man” comics.

Another annoyance “Rise of Gru” can’t seem to get enough of is the whole slow-motion “Bullet Time” trick that blew minds in “The Matrix” in 1999. More than 20 years and countless “Bullet Time” rip-offs later and this trick feels unnecessary and just plain tired.

But the worst part of “Rise of Gru” is the fact that you’re essentially watching a pretty decent idea die a long-overdue death. Minions can work, and pretty well when they’re kept in the role of side characters. Even in the first Minion-centric film that told their origin story, it worked, although by the end of that film, the welcome was worn out.

It’s a bit of a blessing that “Rise of Gru” splits its screen time between the Minions’ search for Gru and Gru’s plot with Wild Knuckles. It helps buffer you from having to sit through too much Minion zaniness or their inane baby talk.

There are a few other things that really help keep “Rise of Gru” from being a complete disaster. Some of the voice acting is pretty good, especially Henson, Yeoh and RZA, who plays a friend’s biker. The kung fu training subplot that features Yeoh is the most consistently fun part of the movie.

The scenes set in Chinatown are colorful, a nice contrast to the bland visual palette of the rest of the movie. The vehicles Belle Bottom and her buddies zoom around in are pretty cool.

But the best thing about “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” by far, is that it’s short. Even at 87 minutes, this movie feels like it overstays its welcome. I went in knowing this movie wasn’t made for someone like me and I was still underwhelmed. But kids will probably be entertained, so there’s that.

1 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.

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