Review by Daniel Blackaby July 2, 2022
Minions: The Rise of Gru (Christian Movie Review)
Verdict: A noisy and disjoined film that offers some funny isolated gags, but very little substance or heart.
About The Movie
Illumination Studios is back, sparking an important debate: are the minions funny or just annoying?
While it often feels like the gibbering yellow marshmallows are everywhere in culture, it’s been 5 years since they last scampered onto a movie screen. Yet, nothing has really changed. As with the original spinoff, Minions (2015), The Rise of Gru is cinematic cotton candy. There is nothing of nutritional value to be found. The movie offers a quick sugar high.
Let’s start with the positives. As expected, there are some hilarious moments. In an era in which animated films often strive for emotional storytelling and explore mature themes, the Minions maintain the spirit of classic cartoons like the Loony Tunes. I watched the movie with my 7-year-old twin boys, and they laughed throughout.
Unfortunately, the problem is that there isn’t much else of value. The zany humor that works well in small doses in the Despicable Me films becomes tiresome when stretched into a feature-length movie. Like an overindulgence of sugar, eventually it stops being enjoyable and just leaves you with a headache. It seems that the filmmakers had a collection of ideas for crazy Minion hijinks and then pieced them together with the thinnest of narrative threads. As a result, The Rise of Gru unfolds more like a series of disconnected gags or SNL sketches rather than as a unified story.
Also noticeably missing is the touching relationship between Gru and his three adopted daughters that provided the heart of the Despicable Me movies. There are attempts to fill that emotional void, such as through the storyline of Gru bonding with a grandfatherly supervillain he grew up idolizing or his growing parental relationship with the minions. But the barrage of gags doesn’t give these moments room to breathe.
I didn’t dislike Minions: Rise of Gru. It was exactly the type of movie I expected it to be. I’m just not sure I enjoyed it all that much. My kids laughed while watching it, but they were already talking about other things by the time we left the movie theatre’s parking lot. Overall, while good for some laughs, it felt uninspired. The minions themselves may be indestructible, immortal creatures, but I think their charm is reaching the end of the road.
On the Surface
Profanity: None, although there are several utterances of “what the heck” and a few other rude words (“stupid,” “idiot,” etc.).
Other: The movie contains several elements that some Christian parents may find offensive, although the film does not necessarily present them in an offensive way. Two hippy characters (the film is set in 1976) are shown doing strange and almost psychedelic yoga (they’re making weird grunts and sounds), and it’s implied that one smells strongly of marijuana. The story also revolves around the mystical “Zodiac Stone” that can turn anyone into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac (you see the spirits of the animals come out of the stone and into the characters, though it’s not depicted as demonic possession or anything spiritual). Lastly, a kung-fu master teaches characters to “find your inner beast,” which inflames their eyes and allows them to unleash their rage on their enemies and use mystical kung-fu powers (sending blasts of wind, etc.). It is clearly presented as a classic martial art trope, not as anything spiritual or demonic, but it is something for parents to consider (you can get an idea of it by watching the movie’s trailers). Lastly, one of the villains is named Nun-chuck and, as expected, she is nun who uses nunchucks. I personally found the character mildly amusing and harmless, but some Christian viewers might find the character blasphemous or offensive.
Beneath The Surface
Engage The Film
Living Life in a Community
The Rise of Gru isn’t a deep movie, and there is very little going on “beneath the surface.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing (it’s okay for movies simply to entertain rather than explore deeper themes), but it also means there isn’t a whole lot for Christians to engage with.
Amidst the zany Minion shenanigans, there is a wholesome message. The story highlights the importance of community and doing life together (even if that life involves being a despicable supervillain). The Minions are trying to establish a life with Gru after their nomadic existence in Minions (2015). Gru is striving to find his place in the world of supervillains, first by trying to join the famous Vicious 6 and then by embracing his own crew with the minions. Gru summarizes the theme at the end of the film: “He taught me what really matters. You can’t do anything alone. Find your tribe and never let them go.”
Gru’s newfound understanding is a biblical one: “Then God said ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’” (Genesis 2:18), or “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). While not anti-family, the movie emphasizes the importance of community and “found family.” My favorite scene in the film depicts the unexpected friendship between a minion and a seemingly gruff and intimidating biker. They form a touching bond, and it’s clear that both are encouraged and blessed by the other.