We Watch It For The Music | Minions: The Rise of Gru


“blurred minion” by Mario A. P. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Ashe Burr, Writer/Volunteer

“Auld Lang Syne” has been sung a few too many times. The oversized objects have fallen slowly to the ground. The confetti has been swept off of the asphalt of a major city. And New Year’s resolutions have been created, whether they will last or not. Apparently, the French made a resolution to wage a media war against the United States for the crime of Emily in Paris having three seasons at the time of this article’s writing, which is arguably five too many. What could the French even release to remotely contend with that travesty? That answer would have to be Illumination Studios’ perennial curse on the world with yet another installment of the adventures of the banana Tic Tacs. Minions: The Rise of Gru firmly cemented the Minions as the second worst thing to ever come out of France, after a legacy of colonialism that has created a butterfly effect which continues to affect their former colonies to this day. Did they need to release this? Absolutely not. Sing 2, the film that the studio released last year, earned nearly $409 million worldwide. So, why did they unveil this abomination over this past summer? In the words of Mr. Krabs in the 2004 Spongebob Squarepants movie, “money.” 

Steve Carrell reprises his role as an 11-year-old Gru in this prequel film, which follows the little manlet as he tries to fill a spot on his favorite villainous team, the Vicious 6, after their leader “died.” Of course, being an 11-year-old in the year 1976, Gru has access to incredible technology like a rocket-powered tricycle to go to school in. This also includes being mailed a hologram-projecting cassette tape that he plays in his mother’s car — because that’s a smart economical decision for a group of villains — only to explode like a Tom and Jerry-esque skit. 

Eventually we are introduced to the six members of the Vicious 6 in a montage scene with Brittney Howard of Alabama Shakes performing a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s song “Shining Star” alongside Verdine White, Earth, Wind & Fire’s bassist. All of the members of the Vicious 6 have names that should be tried at the Hague for crimes against human decency. You might be asking yourself, “Why should we use these names as the main reason to try these people for war crimes?” The answer should be quite obvious — they’re all goddamn puns. They aren’t even half-decent puns at that. Because it’s the mid-70s, one of the members of the Vicious 6 is named Belle Bottoms. And yes, she wears bell-bottoms. What else can you expect? Also on the team you have: Svengance, a Swedish hockey fanatic named Sven; Stronghold, a massive man reminiscent of Andre the Giant; Jean-Clawed, a French villain with a massive robotic lobster claw that has a mime’s clothing scheme and is voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme; and perhaps most egregious of all, Nun-chuck, who is — get this — a nun with nunchucks. How incredibly original. There’s also the head of the team, Wild Knuckles, but he’s just a guy or something like that. I guess he’s like the Batman of this film, just with way less money. Also, their headquarters is in the basement of a record store. That doesn’t excuse the sins of their names, but it is something, I guess. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some Phoebe Bridgers to get myself to feel any kind of emotion besides immense pain at this. 

Wait, why the hell is she in this film too? Diana Ross, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, Brockhampton, Kali Uchis, Caroline Polachek, Thundercat, Weyes Blood, Gary Clark Jr., H.E.R., Tierra Whack, Jackson Wang and G.E.M. too? Why are there all these A-list artists and/or sad girl hours playlist mainstays on this soundtrack? Is this a fever dream? And how did they get them all to make covers of hits from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s for this movie? Hearing Annie St. Vincent covering the Lipps Inc. smash hit “Funkytown” gave me a feeling of whiplash I haven’t experienced ever and hope to never experience again. This is the second film I’ve ever experienced that Funkytown shows up in to confuse the daylights out of me. But, I digress. Back to the film’s “plot” or whatever term you can come up with to describe this absolute travesty. 

The six fly to an unnamed place in Asia to steal a stone that holds the powers of the zodiac. Knuckles — not the red echidna, I swear — steals the stone, but is dropped from the hovercraft by the other members of the organization that he started. Then, the title card rolls out. Now, I can finally talk about the fact that Mandopop superstar G.E.M. covered Cher for this film. Cher. Covered by G.E.M. What kind of wild crossover had to be brewed for this sentence to become reality? Caroline Polachek does a different cover of the same song for the ending credits but meh, who cares about that? 

Gru steals the stone and gets kidnapped by Knuckles, who is somehow still alive despite literally falling thousands of feet into a lake in East Asia. Where does Knuckles take Gru to? The best city in California but only a C-tier city to the rest of the United States, San Francisco.

Before some of y’all come at me for this, let me explain: Los Angeles is a farce, San Diego is irrelevant without Carmen, San Jose is so irrelevant that I can’t even say anything about the city, Fresno doesn’t deserve to exist and the only good thing that Sacramento has done for the world in the past century was give us Death Grips. Huh, maybe Sacramento doesn’t deserve this slander. Meh. California as a whole needs to be humbled. 

Back to Minions: The Rise of Gru. Before he gets kidnapped, Otto the minion trades the stone for a pet rock, prompting Gru to fire every single one of the minions. The minions were throwing a rave at the time this happened. In response, the minion who was DJing the rave changed the song to Phoebe Bridgers’ cover of the Carpenter’s 1972 hit, “Goodbye to Love” as the weather outside became a torrential downpour. As much as I’ll slander the film for being nothing more than a cash grab, the overt nihilism that this single scene contains makes this scene the best thing to happen to the series since the first film. 

Speaking of nihilism in 1976, wanna know what ended the year prior that filled the globe with that same emotion? The Vietnam War. While the film doesn’t reference the atrocities that were being waged the year before, the sound design choices are nothing more than a ham-fisted attempt at showcasing the same emotions that were rampant throughout the years prior. I know you are probably thinking to yourself, “How did you get this out of a funny movie about minions, and why were you thinking of a war with more war crimes than Nick Cannon has children?” And I get it. I hear these questions loud and clear, like a prophet receiving visions from an angry god. The answer is simple — the overtones are just so prevalent. Not just from the crimes against humanity that are the names of the Vicious 6, but from the sonic crimes that the film put us through. 

For starters, you have “Rich Minion,” the Gulf of Tonkin incident of the film. While only utilized in a single advertisement for the film, the fact that it was used in the Gentleminion TikTok trend, which I am going to largely blame for the complete and utter ruining of decorum at concerts and theaters, which has also been one of the reasons for the American leg of Steve Lacy’s “Give You the World” tour being as chaotic as it has been, and yes, it’s not just him smashing a phone in New Orleans. The Mỹ Lai of the film is the simple fact that there is this massive batch of A-list artists on the soundtrack, and yet the only original track on the soundtrack was given to Diana Ross, who has only released one album since 2006 — which honestly flopped for an artist with her name power — in collaboration with Tame Impala, who has been milking the success of The Slow Rush for the past three years or so. Why the hell couldn’t the sole original song of the soundtrack go to literally anyone else? If there is a god in this universe, they wouldn’t do this to me even to just get a laugh out of my suffering. For Christ’s sake, the Vicious 6 couldn’t find Wild Knuckles’ house, which is nothing more than a massive K on top of a hill in downtown San Fran-fucking-cisco. How oblivious do you have to be to let this slide? I should also note that Gru literally gets tied to a clock tower’s face, and is drawn and quartered on the clock face. But he doesn’t die. Instead, his limbs just extend like an Inspector Gadget reject. So this either proves that Gru is a god or that he could kill one, and I do not care if there is a difference. How else do you explain an 11-year-old having an entourage of puntable beings doing his bidding? This film has done nothing but broken my psyche, and I deserve financial compensation for my suffering. My computer refused to connect to any WiFi networks while I was starting this piece back in October of 2022. I spent over $200 to give you this knowledge. This isn’t even a joke: I suffered more than anyone else should for the sake of those piss nuggets. Thank Christ this is over. 

Well, at least I can look forward to Illumination’s next film with war crimes, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, starring a crisp rat as the plumber-turned-war-criminal. And much like a weapon banned by the United Nations that was popularized by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, we can leave the Minions in the past, where they belong. 

Wait, what do you mean Despicable Me 4 is currently slated for a release in 2024? Why can’t I go three years without having to see these little gremlins that I want to push down a flight of stairs like a slinky? Apparently Gru has cursed me for my hubris, and my work here is never done. I guess I’ll see you all in 2024 to see what new crimes against humanity are created for the next installment in the film series.