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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Depicts a bit of pop culture from the 1970s, like music, disco dancing, fashion, cars, Mad magazine, and the popularity of Tupperware parties.
Villainy is admired, but the movie also promotes loyalty, teamwork, and courage. There's also a running theme about the importance of mentorship.
Positive Role Models
A few of the minions band together to help rescue Gru, who acts as a parental figure to them despite his shortcomings. Villainy is admired, but it's all pretty light and intended for humor (e.g., spraying strangers with canned cheese, eating ice cream in front of people on treadmills, etc.).
The Vicious 6 group of supervillains is made up of two women (including a Black leader voiced by Taraji P. Henson) and four men, one of whom is voiced by Mexican American actor Danny Trejo. A White villain who uses martial arts is named Nun-Chuck -- she's a nun -- and is voiced by a White actor (Lucy Lawless). The main character befriends an unnamed Black biker (RZA) who appears in a few scenes. Master Chow (Michelle Yeoh) is a female Chinese American kung fu expert who trains three minions. Minions mostly speak "Minionese" but occasionally use Spanish phrases, such as "teléfono" and "mi amor." Some of the horde of baddies are racially/ethnically diverse. A large portion of the second half takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown, and a plot point surrounds a magical pendant with the power of the Chinese zodiac. These cultural aspects are clichéd, shown as mystical and "exotic," and the few Chinese characters are all experts at martial arts. The film's directors and writers are all White men.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of physical and slapstick comedy. Various villains and their sidekicks cause destruction and personal harm. They use technologically advanced weapons and vehicles. People plunge seemingly to their death but survive, flatten and blow holes in homes, and transform into creatures. After learning kung fu from Master Chow, three minions can channel their "inner beasts." Martial arts fighting. A training montage of minions hurting themselves during kung fu lessons. Gru is tortured by being tied up and forced to listen to a disco single on repeat until an alarm will eventually trigger a blade to kill him; he's rescued before that happens. A minion catches on fire during an emergency in the lair. Two characters nearly get eaten by pet crocodiles.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Glimpses of bare minion bottoms and the top of young Gru's butt. Gru is shown in his villain underwear. Three Tower of London guards are hypnotized to strip down to their boxers and dance/sing to the song "Hair," slapping each other on the behind. Additional innuendo related to minions cozying up to fire hydrants, losing a bathing suit (and covering up with sea life), squeezing bottoms, and staring at the chest of a group of minions disguised to look like a woman. One minion asks Master Chow whether she can exchange kung fu lessons for "smoochie smoochie."
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Infrequent insult language includes "stupid idiots," "what the heck," "tubby little punk," "he should be sucking his thumb," "shut up," and "old man." Gru uses the word "tribe" in a non-Indigenous context.
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Products & Purchases
Briefly visible brands and celebrities from the 1970s, including Mad magazine, Tupperware, Jaws movie posters, and stunt motorcyclist Evel Knievel. The film is a spin-off of the Despicable Me series and references other films in the series.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Minions: The Rise of Gru is a Despicable Me prequel/origin story about how young 11-year-old Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) began his life of villainy. As with the other films in this franchise, you can expect peril, slapstick violence, cartoon torture, explosions, and destruction, as well as martial arts battles (and training), vehicle chases, and fight sequences. Three separate scenes include glimpses of a bare minion bottom or the top of Gru's butt. Gru is also shown in his villain underwear. Insults are infrequent but include "stupid idiot," "tubby little punk," "shut up," etc. Villainy is at the heart of this series, but the minions do exhibit loyalty and teamwork as they work to save the brave (but young and naive) Gru. Although the Vicious 6 are ethnically diverse, the film's depiction of Chinese culture is stereotypical and exoticized. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Tween Gru and the ageless and delightfully silly minions make this 1970s-set origin story a short-and-sweet adventure for families and fans of the franchise. There's a universality to watching loner Gru idolize a group (he even has their action figures), even if it is a bunch of villains that includes Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), Stronghold (Danny Trejo), Jean-Clawed (Jean-Claude Van Damme), Svengeance (Dolph Lundgren), and Nun-Chuck (Lucy Lawless). The supergroup of supervillains is seemingly unstoppable, so being temporarily outsmarted by a kid obviously doesn't go down well, and the ensuing adventure for Gru and his bravest minions strikes a good balance between slapstick, sight gags, and general shenanigans and more serious fight sequences. Matthew Fogel and Bryan Lynch's script is easy enough to follow for younger audiences but also features Easter egg references to the original story by providing a peek at characters and gadgets that show up in the Despicable Me movies.
The actors are all very well cast. Oscar winner Yeoh stands out as an acupuncturist who can level any opponent the Vicious 6 sends her way. Arkin is an ideal Wild Knuckles, who experiences a surprisingly tender character arc for a baddie. Henson and Nun-Chuck are the most compelling villains, but the group's individual backstories aren't explored. The animation is familiar, with a bold mix of details that bring the 1970s to life. And once again, the franchise offers up a catchy soundtrack full of covers and originals of big dance hits like "Funkytown" (literally used as a torture device), "Goodbye to Love," and minion-fied versions of "Cecilia" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Bottom line? The Rise of Gru isn't perfect -- in particular, its depiction of Chinese culture feels one-dimensional and clichéd -- but it's true to the original, and the minions are still utterly charming.
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