The Oscar Project Reviews
It feels like the Despicable Me franchise has run its course, yet we continue to get new entries in the series over a decade after we first met Gru and his lovable yellow minions.
However, despite my initial apprehensions, I was pleased with this continuation of the saga. Set after the events of 2015’s Minions (affiliate link) and before Despicable Me (affiliate link), Rise of Gru (affiliate link) chronicles some of the events that led to Gru becoming one of the world’s greatest villains at the beginning of the first movie. The plot revolves around Gru (Steve Carrell) trying to join a supervillain team called the Vicious Six led by Belle Bottom (Tarji P. Henson) after their previous leader Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin) is presumed dead. Gru is denied entry into the team since he is just a kid, but he steals something called the Zodiac Stone during his interview, leading to a chase around the world.
Julie Andrews returns as Gru’s mother in a few scenes, but the returning role that was much more central to the plot is that of Russell Brand’s Dr. Nefario. We meet him as an amateur inventor working at a record store, that just happens to be involved in some nefarious underground dealings…literally. There are also some fun cameos from the first film with the banker (working as a teller here) who also mentions his young son Vector.
Despite the title, I didn’t feel like we really got the “rise” of Gru in this film. Instead, we get a fun adventure film that ends up with Gru gaining a father figure in Knuckles, something that has been lacking throughout the rest of the series. True, Dr. Nefario could be seen as something of a father figure as the only older adult male in his life, but Knuckles fills that role much better here and I will be interested to see if we get another prequel at some point in the future. Gru himself does rise to the occasion of the film, but really comes across as more of a hero than a villain, regardless of his intentions.
As with any modern entry into a film series like there, there is plenty of expected fan service. Several minions can be seen eating out of a Scarlett Overkill lunchbox at one point and Gru uses a “cheese ray” to shoot melted cheese in a coffee shop, a call back to his freeze ray in the first film. We learn where Gru got his giant alligator couches seen throughout the series and toward the end of the film, Knuckles tells Gru to “shoot for the moon,” an obvious reference to the central heist of the first film. None of these references are overly engineered and I’m sure there are plenty more I missed. Fans of the series will enjoy digging up all the Easter Eggs.
Like most sequels these days, this film wasn’t entirely necessary, but I found it enjoyable and fun for the whole family. I can definitely see one more film fitting in between this and the original Despicable Me with more films continuing the series into the future.
7 out of 10