Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 3 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]
Genre:Comedy, Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
From the Cover of Minions: The Rise of Gruby Universal Pictures:
“In the heart of the 1970s, amid a flurry of feathered hair and flared jeans, Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carell) is growing up in the suburbs. A fanboy of a supervillain supergroup known as the Vicious 6, Gru hatches a plan to become evil enough to join them. Luckily, he gets some mayhem-making backup from his loyal followers, the Minions. Together, Kevin, Stuart, Bob, and Otto–a new Minion sporting braces and a desperate need to please–deploy their skills as they and Gru build their first lair, experiment with their first weapons and pull off their first missions. When the Vicious 6 oust their leader, legendary fighter Wild Knuckles (Oscar® winner Alan Arkin), Gru interviews to become their newest member. It doesn’t go well (to say the least), and only gets worse after Gru outsmarts them and suddenly finds himself the mortal enemy of the apex of evil. On the run, Gru will turn to an unlikely source for guidance, Wild Knuckles himself, and discover that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.”
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
This is the fourth installment in the Despicable Me franchise of movies. This film serves as a prequel to give us the backstory of super villain Gru. During the 1970s Gru is aspiring to become a member of the Vicious 6, an elite super villain group, even though he is only 11 years old. Upon interviewing for the open position in the group, Gru is overlooked and quickly proves his abilities by stealing the Vicious 6’s prized heist token, which is a magical stone. Humorous hijinks ensue when Gru entrusts Otto, a newly introduced Minion for this movie, to get the stone back to Gru’s home, but Otto ends up trading the stone for a pet rock he spots at a birthday party. Gru will have to get the stone back to maintain leverage over the Vicious 6, who are out to get him, and the Minions (Kevin, Bob, Stuart, & Otto) strive to get back into Gru’s good graces. The entirety of the movie seems to deal with the issue of sticking together with one’s tribe and trusting others as opposed to tackling life alone.
In this reviewer’s opinion the animation was overall fun and good for some laughs. If you have enjoyed the style of humor from the previous movies, you’ll have a good time with this movie.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
This movie appears to have been created for the general public and seems to be specifically targeting families with children between the approximate ages of six through eleven, although it will be fun for all ages to watch. However, as with many of our reviews the movie is not intended directly for foster and adoptive families. Foster and adoptive families are going to appreciate the theme this movie presents about sticking together with one’s family/friends/tribe. For many families coping with trauma it can be common to find that children untrusting of adults. Thus, children will have trouble sticking together with their foster/adoptive family and may have a tendency to want to take care of issues on their own without any help from safe adults. Families coping with traumatic pasts will appreciate that this film introduces discussion-starters about sticking together with the family unit. It’s unfortunate that some potentially major trauma triggers exist in the film.
Personally, as a moviegoer and fan of the franchise, I really wanted this movie to score better but with the potential triggers not even clever puns or Minion antics could pull it higher. It still has an acceptable score but this reviewer suggests taking a look at the points below to be sure your child will be able to experience this well.
- Following Dreams/Goals
During the film we see that Gru has the goal of becoming a member of the Vicious 6. Throughout the movie we see him making decisions (whether good or bad) based on this goal. Foster and adoptive children have frequently had to deal with traumatic pasts which cause them to habitually not consider future goals/dreams and simply focus on the present. Parents would do well to highlight Gru’s goals and his successes as a way to open up dialogue about your child’s goals. It would be interesting to then discuss the decisions that are going to help them meet their goals.
- Cooperation vs. Solidarity
Near the beginning of the movie Gru tells the Minions that they are not read for the “big leagues,” and he feels that he should pursue his dreams on his own. While pursuing his dreams alone Gru experiences problems with no one to help him. Even closer to the beginning of the movie we witness Gru experiencing sheer joy with various antics with his Minion friends. We also see the group able to accomplish the main task at the end of the movie together. Children from traumatic backgrounds often can feel that they have only themselves to depend on and keep themselves safe. This can make it difficult for them to trust other people and to cooperate. It would be interesting for families to use this animation to discuss the benefits of cooperating and trusting others. It would be also good to highlight how solidarity isn’t always a healthy solution to issues.
- Friendships vs. Manipulation
Within this film we see examples of both friendships and manipulative relationships. Wild Knuckles is manipulated or taken advantage of by his team simply so they could get the artifact they wanted. In turn Wild Knuckles takes advantage of Gru at first so that he can get revenge on the Vicious 6 and take back the artifact he originally stole. However, the same movie is also showing us examples of being a “good” friend when the minions strive to overcome their mistakes made against Gru or as they seek to help Gru even when he is pushing them away. Children from traumatic backgrounds often have a strong desire to be accepted so much so that they might have a difficult time recognizing people who are taking advantage of them. Contrarily, some children may manipulate other people as they are stuck in a “survival mode.” It would be significant for families to use this movie to highlight the differences between the two and to begin a conversation about healthy friendships.
Otto, the Minion, makes a big mistake when he trades Gru’s newly acquired magical artifact for a pet rock. For children from traumatic backgrounds the theme of mistakes is a significant one. Many children feel that they don’t just make mistakes but they ARE a mistake. Thus, situation in the movie is very significant for families to open up the dialogue about self-worth, fixing mistakes, and understanding consequences. It would be interesting for families to discuss the fact that Otto’s action was not an intentional action but it still caused real problems and heartache. It would also be helpful for families to converse about how Otto chose to fix his mistake instead of merely doing nothing about it.
- Relationships are Work
At the beginning of this film it would appear that Gru and his Minions get along fantastically all the time. They are the perfect fits for each other. However, as the progression of the movie shows, their friendship isn’t alway perfect. Otto, the Minion, loses Gru’s newly stolen artifact. Gru wants to distance himself from the Minions when he believes they are holding him back from success. The movie does a great job of showing us that friendships or any relationship takes work. Otto has to go on a difficult quest to fix his mistake and get the artifact back. Kevin, Bob, and Stuart, have to pursue Gru after he is kidnapped and try to get back on his good side. For our children from traumatic places they desperately want to belong to a group and fit in. They want deep friendships and relationships but want them instantly without any work. This movie is a good way for families to discuss how friendships and families are work and sometimes require us to do difficult things to maintain them. It would be good for families to discuss what tasks had to be done in the movie to maintain relationships (in a healthy manner) as well as discuss what a family must do.
- Abandonment & Mistakes
As we have been discussing throughout this review, one of the key components of the plot is when Otto, the Minion, makes a mistake by trading Gru’s valuable artifact for a pet rock. After this mistake is made Gru makes the decision to distance himself from the Minions. This could be difficult for children from traumatic backgrounds to witness as they may feel that they were abandoned by adults due to mistakes they made.
At one point during the movie Kevin, the Minion, witnesses a van drive in front of the home and kidnap Gru. We discover shortly after this event that Wild Knuckles kidnapped Gru. This is a small portion of the movie and it is not portrayed in a point on, realistic manner. However, for children who have been taken from their homes to live with other families this scene could possibly bring up traumatic thoughts. It would be good for parents to know their child well to know if this will be an issue. It will also be good for parents to make themselves available for conversation in case their child wants to talk about this issue or it seems like this issue bothers your child.
- Parental Neglect
Like the other movies in the franchise we experience Gru’s mother not taking a vested interest in his activities or in him, himself. At one point when Gru is kidnapped his kidnapper, Wild Knuckles, says he will call his mother. Gru exclaims, “Don’t call her! She’ll probably pay you to keep me.” Each instance there is neglect we seem to also experience a gag to go along with it. This makes the experience lighter for a general audience. However, for children who are adopted or in the foster care system this may all hit too close to home and trigger traumatic memories. it would be good for parents to know if this is an issue that easily triggers their child. Be available to discuss this issue with your child for days or weeks after watching the movie if you think possibly your child might be triggered knowing that your child may not come to you for discussion.
- Portrayal of Death
At the end of the movie we are led to believe that Wild Knuckles has past away. Shortly after this depiction we see Gru talking at the funeral with Minions comically singing a funeral song in the background. Once again this whole issue is depicted in an animated way and almost has a light or comical feel to it as we watch Minions sing a funeral song in their gibberish sounding Minion language. However, for children who have experience the loss of parents, this scene could possibly cause a child to recall past trauma. It would be good for parents to be ready to have a dialogue with their child about dealing with loss.
- Cartoon Violence
If you have seen the previous movies from this franchise, you already know that you will be witnessing battles between villains, the Anti-Villain League, and Gru & his Minions. True to the franchise the battles are done in a very cartoonish style with silly and exaggerated weapons. For example Gru has a Cheez-Whiz gun which coats people in cheese and freezes them in place. A woman in Chinatown teaches Kevin, Bob, and Stuart, how to battle using Kung-Fu. However, this is done with silly antics and scenes. Parents should be aware that violence exists in this film. However, it is the opinion of this reviewer that parents should be more concerned about the adrenaline rush that the excitement and cartoon violence might give a child as a spike in adrenaline can cause children to subconsciously remember bad times they had spike in adrenaline in the past during physical or emotional abuse.
- What is Gru’s big dream? What’s something big you would like to be or do in the future?
Caregiver Note: These questions merely help you to see if your child understood the premise of the movie as well as open up conversation for your family to talk about dreams or goals they might have for the future.
- The Vicious 6 are a team. Why do you think they betrayed Wild Knuckles?
Caregiver Note: This question is opening up a dialogue with your child about relationships and friendships. As we discuss in the above points, the Vicious 6 were manipulating Wild Knuckles. It was not a healthy relationship. During this question we are hoping to begin looking at why the Vicious 6 were not a healthy relationship.
- Do you think Gru and the Minions were good friends? Why?
Caregiver Note: During these questions we are hoping that your family can discuss how Gru and the Minions exhibited healthy friendship traits. Hopefully, your family can use the contrast between the Vicious 6 and this question to see some differences. Your family might want to identify if these traits are in your own family’s friendships.
- What was Otto’s big mistake? What did Gru do because of the mistake?
Caregiver Note: For this question we just want to see if your family understands what took place in the movies so we can build on this with the next couple of questions.
- Do you think Gru handled the mistake well? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: Otto made a mistake and Gru decided to distance himself from the Minions. During this question it would be good for you, the adult, to listen to your child. Then it would be good to have a discussion about how your family would not abandon someone because of a mistake.
- Is Otto a bad Minion because he made a mistake? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: This question is hopefully able to help you begin a dialogue about how people can make a mistake but that doesn’t mean that they ARE a mistake. Even though Gru’s response to Otto’s mistake might suggest otherwise, it is good for you, the adult, to assure your child that make a mistake is normal and doesn’t make someone a mistake.
- Why do you think Otto decided to try and get the stone back?
Caregiver Note: On this question we want to focus on Otto’s reaction to his mistake. It would have been easy for Otto to do nothing but he chose to do the difficult task of trying to make his mistake right again. For children from traumatic places it can be easy for them to be stuck in survival mode and not consider other people’s feelings or be concerned with righting mistakes. During this question it would be good for your family to discuss Otto’s feelings and his reaction to those feelings so that your child can recognize them in real life at times.
- Do you think it was better for Gru to work with the Minions or alone? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: As we have mentioned throughout this review it is common for foster or adoptive children to not trust others and do life in a solo manner. This question is a good way to explore how things worked out for Gru and the Minions in this movie. Your family should be able to identify pros and cons for both working alone and in cooperation with others.
- Do you think it is easy for your family to work together or everyone alone? Why or why not?
Caregiver Note: As we build off of the last question, we are hoping that your family can use the observations and discussion from the last question to talk about your own family. This will help children to discuss the idea of cooperation in their life. It could be that they will not employ the situations discussed but we want to simply introduced healthy action steps and ideas so that they will hopefully eventually adopt them as their own.
- At one point Gru says, “when you find your tribe, you should never let them go.” What do you think he meant by that?
Caregiver Note: It is good to talk to children from traumatic places about sticking together with their family unit. This could mean being in close proximity to them, emotionally, etc. It would be good to use examples of this movies to show how people or “tribes,” stuck together. It would also be good to see how many instances or scenarios you can create to show how your family can stick together in various situations.
About the Author: Darren Fink
Co-founder and President of Transfiguring Adoption. Darren is a graduate of Illinois State University where he studied fine art. He offers foster and adoptive parents over a decade of experience in parenting foster and adoptive children, as well as his introductory to counseling training. Darren is the author of the “A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home,” book series.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.