By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — A ’70s vibe adds verve to the animated origin story “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (Universal).
Thus director Kyle Balda’s addition to a franchise that began with 2010’s “Despicable Me” draws on such nostalgic tropes as blaxploitation movies, kung fu films and Tupperware parties, not to mention the memorable — for better or worse — music of the period.
The result is a generally wholesome and breezy bit of entertainment. But a minor ingredient in the mix plays on Catholic sensibilities in a way that may prove slightly grating to parents of faith.
At the height of the disco era, paradoxically good-hearted would-be supervillain Gru (voice of Steve Carell) is a still a preteen boy living with his overbearing mother (voice of Julie Andrews). Yet he already yearns to join the Vicious 6, a crew of famed criminals founded by martial arts master Wild Knuckles (voice of Alan Arkin).
In an effort to impress his heroes, Gru swipes a jewel-studded pendant endowed with magical powers that can be used for evil purposes. But complications imperil him, and the Minions — the diminutive, comically incomprehensible creatures whom he’s taken under his wing — scramble to rescue their beloved leader.
The laughs provoked by screenwriter Matthew Fogel’s script come frequently and its emphasis on loyalty, teamwork and true friendship is pleasing. But the fact that the Vicious 6 numbers among its members a traditionally habited religious sister called — what else? — Nun-Chuck (voice of Lucy Lawless) may not sit well with some viewers.
Initially present simply to play up her punning moniker, Nun-Chuck’s fleeting screen time is mostly devoted to harmless sight gags. Yet she does make the sign of the cross at one point and consistently holds her hands together in a prayerlike pose.
While impressionable moviegoers should probably not be introduced to the subtleties of what is or is not acceptable about this silly character, teens — like their elders — will easily shrug off the momentary lapses of taste involved in her depiction. Then they can return to riding along with the rollicking, though sometimes diffuse, proceedings.
The film contains much comic mayhem, brief irreverent and mild scatological humor and glimpses of partial rear cartoon nudity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.