29 November, 2022

Have You Seen . . . ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’?

by | 19 August, 2022

Movies bring people of all backgrounds together like few other events. People talk for weeks about a movie they love. We want to provide talking points to help you take those conversations with family and friends to a deeper, spiritual level. Starting from this common ground, you can find opportunities to share your own faith experience with others. Now, get some popcorn and let’s dive in! 

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Minions: The Rise of Gru 

PG • 2022 • Animated Comedy/Adventure • 1 hour 27 minutes  

Starring these voices: Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin, Taraji P. Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Russell Brand  

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By Andrew Wood  

Minions: The Rise of Gru is the latest installment of a franchise that has become as popular with adults as children. At first glance the Minions—funny little guys who look like Tic Tacs wearing overalls—might seem like mere comic relief. Watch a little closer, though, and you’ll find food for thought to discuss with children and their parents. 

From previous films in this franchise, we know Gru as an arch-villain wannabe who is served by a chaotic army of Minions. Aside from driving an atrociously polluting vehicle and freezing people to get to the front of the coffee line, Gru’s villainy tends to be of the fantastic grand theft variety—stealing world landmarks and celestial bodies.  

We also know there’s goodness in Gru, as much as he tries to hide it. From adopting children, to finding romantic love, to throwing the occasional compliment to his Minions, the good can’t help but slip out now and then. Are people basically good or basically evil? Gru, it seems, is some of both. 

Minions: The Rise of Gru shows us how it all began, with Gru, as a young boy, dreaming of becoming a supervillain like his heroes, the Vicious 6. Led by Belle Bottom, a 1970s-era disco diva, the Vicious 6 team includes cleverly named members with unique abilities. A surprising but hilarious member is Nunchuck, a nun who wields nunchucks and flies in a vehicle made to look like a pipe organ. Funny as she is, her scenes can cause children to associate Christian symbolism with danger. 

Gru fails in his attempt to join the group but manages to steal from them a mystical Chinese artifact—the Zodiac Stone—that can transform the owner into a gigantic creature from Chinese astrology. Disaster strikes when a Minion trades the stone for a pet rock, and Gru is kidnapped by another villain. Minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto embark on cross-country journeys to retrieve the magical artifact and free Gru. This leads to many laughs and culminates in a showdown with the Vicious 6 in which the Minions, in their bumbling way, manage to save the day almost despite themselves. 

Some Christian viewers will have valid concerns with the centrality of magic and Eastern mysticism in the plot. However, for those who choose to view the movie with their children, this part of the story can open conversations about reality versus fantasy, why Christians don’t attempt to do magic, and exploration of Chinese and other ancient Asian cultures. 

A key emphasis of the film is valuing the elderly—an important point at which Chinese culture connects with the Christian worldview. The real villains in this movie insult, harass, and exclude the elderly, while Gru and his Minions seek them out as valuable sources of wisdom. It is perhaps the most valuable lesson for all ages in the movie.   

The Minions’ appeal to all ages with their comedic antics and the gobbledygook they speak, which offers a continually satisfying puzzle of deciphering their meaning based on contextual clues. And as Gru tries to hide his good, the Minions put theirs on full display. They’re loyal to a fault, affectionate to Gru and to each other, and display far greater courage than is justified by their limited abilities. Their mistakes inject maddening chaos into the best-laid plans, but somehow those same Minions are who pull it all together in the end. In this, we might see echoes of God’s own people. Used and abused by the world. Weak and foolish. Objects of ridicule. Yet in the end, these ultimate underdogs come out on top. 

Life lesson: If you’re going to be a Minion, choose your Master well.     

DISCUSSION POINTS 

If you’d like to engage with others about this movie, but on a deeper level, try some of these questions. Because we’re reviewing a children’s movie, we have separate questions for children and their parents. 

For children:  

  • Are Gru and his Minions bad guys or good guys? How can you tell? 
  • How do the Minions show that they are good friends to Gru? How can you be a good friend? 
  • Were you scared of Nunchuck? Would you like me to explain who real nuns are? 
  • Is magic real or make believe? Why do you think Christians don’t do magic? 
  • What did Gru and the Minions learn from old people? Who is an older person you can learn from? 

For adults: 

  • Do you think movies like this blur the lines between good and evil too much? 
  • Were you ever scared of Christian people or symbols? Why is that? Has that changed? 
  • At what age is it appropriate to introduce children to other religious worldviews? Is it important to you that your children share your religious views? 
  • How well do you think our society handles aging? How can we get generations connected to one another again? 
  • What would it be like if we had the same attitude as the Minions? Would we have less stress and still achieve our goals?  

Andrew Wood, a former missionary to Ukraine and associate professor at Nebraska Christian College, is a freelance writer and serves in marketing and advertising sales with Christian Standard Media. 

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

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