Minions: The Rise of Gru [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (19th October 2022).
The Film

Eleven-year-old Gru (voiced by The Office's Steve Carell) is very different from his classmates. His life's ambition is to be a "super villain" and he already has an army of barely-competent minions who responded to a "help wanted" ad building an evil lair beneath his home. His mother (voiced by Mary Poppins' Julie Andrews) is too busy going from guru to guru and hosting MLM pyramid scheme parties to notice. When Gru receives an invitation to audition for the Vicious 6 super villain team, he is unaware that the opening is to fill the void left by his personal hero Wild Knuckles (voiced by Glengarry Glen Ross's Alan Arkin) who was double-crossed and left for dead by his team after he stole the Zodiac Stone which is impregnated with enough spiritual energy to make them truly unstoppable and finally wipe out the Anti-Villain League. Thinking he has hit the big time, Guru is a little self-conscious about his bumbling assistants and tries to keep them distracted building his lair. Unbeknownst to Gru, lead minion Kevin and bumbling Otto (both voiced by Pierre Coffin) trail him to Criminal Records where the young super villain hopeful is ridiculed by Wild Knuckles' replacement Belle Bottom (voiced by What Men Want's Taraji P. Henson) who tells the "tubby kid" to go back to school. Gru attempts to show his mettle by swiping the Zodiac Stone with the help of a new "sticky fingered" device gifted to him by Dr. Nefario (voiced by Rock of Ages' Russell Brand) who moonlights as a record store clerk.

Gru manages to evade the pursuit of Belle Bottom and her cohorts Nun-Chuck (voiced by Xena: Warrior Princess' Lucy Lawless), Svengeance (voiced by Showdown in Little Tokyo's Dolph Lundgren), Jean-Clawed (voiced by Double Team's Jean-Claude Van Damme), and Stronghold (voiced by Machete's Danny Trejo) with the intention of returning it and being inducted into the league; that is, until Otto trades the stone for a pet rock. Gru fires the minions only to subsequently be abducted while searching for the stone. His captor reveals himself to be Wild Knuckles who has a beef with the Vicious 6 and wants the stone for himself. When Gru cannot produce the stone, Wild Knuckles holds him for ransom with the deadline being forty-eight hours until the Chinese New Year when the stone will unleash its powers. While Otto attempts to track down the stone from the child who traded him for it and winds up on a cross-country road trip with the boy's biker uncle (voiced by rapper RZA), Kevin and fellow minions Stuart and Bob are rescued from a Vicious 6 beating by acupuncturist/former kung fu master Chow (voiced by Supercop's Michelle Yeoh) who has sworn off teaching martial arts until the minions turn their puppy eyes on her. As the Chinese New Year nears, Gru and Wild Knuckles face off against the supernaturally-empowered Vicious 6 with only the help of four Twinkies with eyes and limbs.

Mercifully short at just under eighty-minutes without the lengthy opening and ending credits, Minions: The Rise of Gru feels rather low stakes and underdeveloped for an origin story but the filmmakers presumably believe that the target audience will be suitably entertained by the minion antics while their parents can find distraction in its lampooning of everything 1970s from the fashions and the 'fros not to mention America's love affair with Asian martial arts films during the period to a soundtrack of popular needle drops and lyrical contrafacta lie Gru's take on "Bad Moon Rising" or the minions turning "Cecilia" into a whistle-while-you-work song. Carell, Arkin, Henson, and Brand are engaging in their vocal performances, but it is shocking just how little we actually get to hear of the stunt voice casting of the likes of Yeoh, Lawless, Van Damme, Trejo, Lundgren, and Andrews or even the likes of Will Arnett and Steve Coogan whose Anti-Villain League leader's lines can be counted on one hand. Where the film does truly impress is in its wildly kinetic animation that reveals that the kind of CGI that looks absurdly "cartoonish" in live action films looks utterly fantastic against within a similarly computer-generated environment. Chases and fight scenes elicit almost the same kind of visceral reaction as their live action counterparts, and the climactic battle is indeed exciting. While the resolution never truly tugs at the heartstrings and the "find your tribe" moral of the story seems like an afterthought Minions: The Rise of Gru is a painless and even entertaining diversion for older audiences.

Video

Digitally-produced and projected, Minions: The Rise of Gru's 2160p24 HEVC 2.40:1 widescreen UHD and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-rays deliver a truly stunning image throughout. The Blu-ray alone delivers bold colors, crisp lines, and a sense of almost three-dimensional depth even in 2D, but the Dolby Vision grade of the UHD enhances all of this through a greater gradation in the rendering of colors and apparent "shadow detail." A Blu-ray/DVD combo is also available for a lower price.

Audio

Both discs feature a Dolby Atmos track as their primary audio, and the many chase and fight scenes make use of both the height and width of the sound field with the opening scene of Belle Bottom evading the AVL on her motorcycle, Wild Knuckles fighting hordes of mechanized minions, and the climactic fight as demo material standouts. The Blu-ray alone includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo DVS track while both discs also include lossy Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks along with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitle tracks.

Extras

While the film does not include a filmmaker commentary, the extras manage to convey a lot of information in a succinct manor. The disc includes a pair of mini movies with the pop culture satire "Post Modern Minions" (3:49) and "Minions and Monsters" (4:20) which seems less like a narrative short than an extended advert for a minions video game. An extended scene (1:25) shows discipline on the part of the filmmakers cutting some sight gag material that simply was not funny while the outtakes (3:02) features split-screen footage of the voice actors in the studio and their characters during a series of blown line readings.

"Character Profiles" (15:47) include discussion of the characters by Carell and co-directors Kyle Balda (The Lorax), Brad Abelson (Good Vibes), and Jonathan Del Val (The Secret Life of Pets 2) who also turn up in the featurettes "Gru-vy Animation" (6:27) which looks at the importance of concept art in shaping the look of the film and extensive storyboards in shaving time off the expensive and time-consuming animation process "Fashion, Food & Funk" (4:48) in which they reflect on their childhood memories of the era and their visual references for the film, as well as "Minion Martial Arts" (4:12) in which they discuss the challenges of realizing martial arts fight scenes in animation, particularly with the limitations of movement for the minions.

More entertaining are the "How to Draw (& Animate)" (11:11) featurettes in which Abelson gives practical demonstrations for the young, aspiring animator with simple tools like a pen and paper or a tablet. The "Lair Flair" (10:22) featurettes instruct children and parents on how to create their own lair out of cardboard and electrical tape while the "Super Style Shop" (6:50) pieces offer DIY fashion tips.

Packaging

A digital copy code is included in the case with the two discs.

Overall

Minions: The Rise of Gru is a painless and even entertaining diversion for older audiences.

 


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