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The Minions Continue To Do The Heavy Lifting

When we catch back up with Gru and his clan, they’ve grown by one, as baby Gru Jr. has been born between films. He and his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), still work for the AVL, and Gru’s mission in the opening set piece is to capture Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), an ostentatious rival from his youth. The two square off at what amounts to their high school reunion, as they both attended the supervillain institute¬†Lyc√©e Pas Bon. Maxime is beloved and accomplished in a way Gru never has been, but in thwarting Maxime’s latest plan involving turning people into cockroaches, Gru escalates their decades-long feud to dangerous new heights. When Maxime breaks out of maximum security prison to enact his revenge, the AVL forces the family into a kind of witness protection, transplanting them into new cover identities in a milquetoast town.

While three Minions stick with the family, the rest are conscripted into service by the AVL, shunting them off into their own B-plot that stays far away from the main action until the film’s climax. Staying safe and catching Maxime feels secondary to Gru’s main goal in the film: to endear himself to Gru Jr., who seemingly adores everyone in the world except his father. There’s a secondary subplot about Poppy Prescott (Joey King), a teenage neighbor with aspirations of villainy who blackmails Gru into performing a heist with her, but overall, the narrative feels quite disjointed.

“The White Lotus” showrunner Mike White helped hatch this story and pen the screenplay, but this doesn’t much feel like the work of the man who helped give us the family friendly classic “School of Rock.” The film as a whole feels like an episode of a “Despicable Me” spin-off series stretched out to feature length rather than its own satisfying movie experience. It’s not that the characters aren’t lovable or that their obstacles aren’t believable, but rather that none of the film’s disparate arcs dovetail the way they ought to.

Illumination has never really been on the level of storytelling of Pixar, but this film in particular feels pretty damning in the ongoing case that they make movies that make money but whose stories lack the lasting emotional and cultural impact of their Disney competitors. Beyond the memetic power of the Minions themselves, what else is there to this series?

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