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Minions: The Rise of Gru review – more of the same watchable wacky slapstick

Even if some of the tropes are feeling tired by now, this is still a safe bet for a brief hit of summer fun that will entertain the whole family

Given their total cultural ubiquity – from appearing in the Despicable Me series to cross-promotions for other movies to every other Facebook meme – it seems almost weird that the Minions have only had two films with their name on the marquee. This second, subtitled The Rise of Gru, serves as both a follow-on to the 2015 standalone Minions movie and also as a more direct prequel to the mainline Despicable Me films, packed full of Easter Eggs for long-term fans whilst also telling an enjoyably silly story of its own. It is absolutely more of the same wacky slapstick that has defined the Minions so far, hardly upturning your expectations but still having fun within the confines of the series.

What is perhaps most surprising about Minions 2 is its genuine commitment to being a, for want of a better term, period piece. Regaling us with the story of how the rubbery yellow creatures became the henchmen of soft-hearted supervillain Gru (Steve Carell), director Kyle Balda plants us firmly in the ‘70s, with all the disco and kung-fu you’d expect from the decade.

Still a child of 11, Gru (with Carell squeaky-ing up his voice to fit Gru’s young age) wants to be a famous supervillain, but his scheme to steal an ancient and powerful amulet lands him in the crosshairs of more established and fiendish villains. Central among these are the ruthless roller disco-themed Belle Bottom (Taraji P Henson) and aged martial-artist biker Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin). Inevitably, the pint-sized Gru ends up in their dastardly clutches and it’s up to the Minions (all still voiced by Pierre Coffin) to get their tiny boss back.

It’s never a story where the stakes feel particularly high (most problems are solved with cop-out solutions that don’t seem to make the most imaginative use of the Minions’ springy invulnerability) but there are plenty of skits here that will have kids bouncing in their seats. Most fun are the kung-fu lessons imparted to the lead three Minions by kindly old Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh), which are zippy and energetic and contain the film’s biggest laughs.

Though most of the best gags have been spoiled in the trailers, the all-ages humour here still mostly lands, even if the classic Minions tropes are feeling a little tired by now (I could do without hearing their gibberish language for a good long while) and quite a few set-pieces feel devoid of jokes. Some laughs have definitely been traded in for a more plot-driven story and moments of pathos that only sort of land which, combined with the call-backs to the earlier films, suggest that Minions 2 is aimed at slightly older kids than its predecessor.

A drawn-out ending aside, though, this will keep younger audiences glued to the screen throughout without totally exhausting their parents, which is all you can really expect and ask for from this spinoff series. It’s not going to challenge for the top spots of family animation currently occupied by the best of Pixar or Sony – the actual animation itself is mostly just functional – but for a brief hit of summer fun, Rise of Gru is still a pretty safe bet.

Minions: The Rise of Gru is now in UK cinemas.

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